UK lifting of SA red list for travel will provide a ‘socio-economic’ boost, say experts
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DURBAN - Tourism industry experts say they have seen an increased demand in bookings just in time for the festive season.
This comes after the UK reported that South Africans would be removed from its red list, which required travellers to quarantine for Covid-19 clearance in an approved hotel at their cost for 10 days before being allowed to travel the country freely.
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the city was “very optimistic”, especially for Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) market, which has been waiting for over 18 months for the go-ahead to see their families in South Africa.
“However, it’s still a bit early to expect visitors, as it’s not peak season as yet and the announcement is fairly recent, hence visitors will need time to plan a trip to a long-haul destination like South Africa. We’re expecting our UK visitors to reach Durban shores around January and February.
“The socio-economic value of the UK visitor is important to Durban, based on the pound/rand rate, as they’ll be able to spend much money in Durban. If we can get just 10% of our normal number of annual UK visitors back by the end of this year, it will generate R25 million in direct spend and a R60m contribution to the City’s GDP,” said Mayisela.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), an umbrella organisation representing businesses in the travel and tourism sector, said the council was definitely seeing a surge in demand for international and domestic travel.
TBCSA chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said the removal off the red list came as good news, and the TBCSA was already seeing increased demand since the recent announcement.
Tshivhengwa said the council was seeing increased demand on flights between South Africa and the UK, but added that the country needed to increase capacity between the two countries so South Africa could benefit from as many tourists as possible being able to fly easily between the two countries. As a result, the country too could benefit from the tourist expenditure spin-off across the value chain of tourism, helping to secure jobs.
He said TBCSA members had seen an increase in inquiries.
“Some members have indicated that bookings that had been cancelled have now been rebooked. Every part of the country will get its fair share of the increased tourist demand, including KwaZulu-Natal.
“What I’ve seen is that the Christmas period for domestic and international bookings between the two countries is on the rise. Domestic travellers are also on the rise, in areas such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, and the Western Cape. Hopefully we will be able to sustain the increased demand for travel,” said Tshivhengwa.
Janine Hills, chief executive and founder of Authentic Leadership, said the decision to remove South Africa from the UK red list was a big deal, as it would lead to more than 300 000 tourists visiting the country over the next six months.
Hills said the timing was perfect, coming ahead of the busiest season for South Africa. The decision would strengthen the Commonwealth relationship, she said.
She added that South Africa relied on the tourism industry as an estimated 10% economic contributor to the economy.
“The South Africa time zone is in line with the UK, and many regard the country as a second home. This will also have a very positive ripple effect for other industries. Drivers, restaurants, hotels and other food and alcohol industries will benefit from the easing of travel restrictions,” said Hills.
British Airways announced it was set to ramp up services to popular winter sun destinations including South Africa, with daily services to Johannesburg expected by mid-December. The airline said it would also restart services to Cape Town, offering three flights a week in November, before moving to a double daily service in December.
Sean Doyle, British Airways’ chairperson and chief executive, said: “It finally feels like we are seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel. Britain will benefit from this significant reduction in red list countries, and now it’s time to turn our attention to eradicating testing for fully vaccinated travellers, to ensure we don’t lose our place on the global stage.
“Once we have a firm date for the reopening of US borders in November, we look forward to reconnecting our two countries, reigniting transatlantic businesses, and reuniting families who have been separated for the best part of two years. We are ready, and we look forward to operating our first flights and welcoming back our customers,” said Doyle.