BIG business in the tourism and hospitality industry has hailed the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions as a move that bodes well to resuscitate the crippled sector and boost economic activity.
This comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday announced the relaxation of restrictions to manage Covid-19 amid a downward trend in infections.
Ramaphosa increased the maximum number of people permitted to attend indoor and outdoor gatherings, and removed the mandatory requirement for a negative PCR test for vaccinated travellers to enter South Africa.
The tourism and hospitality industry had been lamenting that the cost and inconvenience of mandatory PCR tests were exacerbated if travellers visit multiple destinations in southern Africa over the general two-week or 10-day holiday period.
Otto de Vries, the chief executive of the Association Of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata), yesterday, said they had lobbied tirelessly for the past eight months for the government to scrap PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers.
“There’s no denying that the costly PCR test required for travel has been a major obstacle to the travel industry’s recovery,” De Vries said.
“The requirement for travel left South Africa on the back foot compared to many other countries in the world that either waived testing for fully vaccinated travellers or allowed inexpensive and quicker rapid antigen tests.”
MORE Family Collection chief executive Robert More said the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding PCR testing had been the single biggest deterrent when considering a destination.
“Removing this for South Africa, which is so well suited to a post-pandemic travel experience, will be the single biggest step forward to unlocking our ability to rebuild our inbound tourism market,” More said.
The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) national chairperson Rosemary Anderson said many destinations had already removed the requirement for vaccinated travellers to furnish negative PCR tests.
“Accessibility plays a major role in travellers’ decision-making when selecting a destination and the PCR test has always been a major stumbling block hampering inbound travellers, who do not always have easy and affordable access to PCR testing in their own country,” she said.
“Mass unemployment is one of the biggest problems facing South Africa and our sector holds the key to economic growth and job creation.
“For us to realise our potential and be the catalyst our economy needs, decisive decisions based on science and global best practice are required sooner, rather than later.”
Business Unity SA (Busa) chief executive Cas Coovadia said the easing of these restrictions would be a significant boost to tourism.
“The president’s address brought the country good news, which we all need. However, the address also emphasised the imperative of not letting our guard down.”
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE