Passengers walk past a South African Airways (SAA) customer desk at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
Passengers walk past a South African Airways (SAA) customer desk at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Domestic travel in focus as global bans remain

By Sakhiseni Nxumalo Time of article published Mar 30, 2021

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DURBAN - WITH 121 countries imposing travel bans on the country, South African Tourism has urged the public to focus on domestic travel.

Data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and travel platform Skyscanner revealed that South Africa was one of the most restricted countries in the world. The data also showed that only nine countries have low restrictions for South African travellers.

Furthermore, Dubai-based Emirates has announced that flights from South Africa to Dubai are to remain suspended until April 8.

While the daily passenger flights to Johannesburg will continue to operate as EK763, outbound passenger services on EK764 remain suspended.

It said that customers who have been to or connected through South Africa in the past 14 days would not be permitted on any Emirates flights bound for Dubai.

British Airways has also announced that their flights between Johannesburg and Heathrow Airport have been suspended until May 17.

The restrictions on South African travellers appear to be largely due to the coronavirus variant 501Y.V2, which was discovered by South African scientists and is more transmissible than the initial virus.

SA Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona said that the tourism world was recalibrating because of the Covid19 pandemic.

Ntshona said that even though South African borders were open, and had been for some time, there were many factors that influenced the travel policies of the various countries.

“The pandemic’s trajectory in the various countries is also different. Currently, our top three international source markets, the UK, US and Germany, are themselves in hard lockdown and thus unable to travel,” he said. He said that key source markets were going back into lockdown and others were experiencing second and third waves, which would impact their decisions on travelling.

Ntshona said the pandemic had had an adverse impact on businesses across the board and tourism was no different.

He said more than 55 000 tourism businesses had closed, either temporarily or permanently, and there were many other sectors that tourism impacted.

Ntshona said that instead of going abroad people should feel comfortable with domestic tourism as it would be the country’s option for some time.

“We have dubbed this year ’the year of the vaccine’ as Tourism. The most important thing is to ensure an efficient vaccine roll-out. This will contribute to people’s comfort levels in travelling internationally,” he said.

Dawie Roodt, chief economist of the Efficient Group, said other countries were trying to avoid the risk of the 501Y.V2 variant.

He said this had had an impact on South Africa’s image, economy and relationship with other countries.

“Our economy is already in a critical stage.

“When the tourism industry is experiencing a knock, this affects many other industries as it is regarded as an international economic corridor. It is connected to everything,” he said.

Roodt said South Africans should promote the local tourism industry by travelling domestically.

“However, for those who have relatives internationally, it’s very hard to visit them or have them visit South Africa due to the restrictions,” he said.

The government needed to increase the pace of the vaccine roll-out in order to make other countries confident about the efforts being made to fight the pandemic as this could lead to the bans being lifted, he said.

THE MERCURY

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