Rustenburg – The United Kingdom's decision to move South Africa back to its red list is premature, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) said on Friday.
"We are very concerned by the UK’s decision, especially as we approach our country’s busiest season from a tourism activities perspective. We believe that the UK should have done thorough consultations with us to agree on a better approach to the discovery of the new Covid-19 variant. This travel ban will have dire consequences for our economy,” said CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa in a statement.
The UK announced that it would impose a travel ban on South Africa and other five southern African countries with effect from November 26, following the detection of a new Covid-19 variant.
The other countries are Botswana, Lesotho, eSwatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Tshivhengwa said they were concerned regarding the Department of Health’s 'hurried' announcement and lack of detail around the matter as it does not provide the opportunity for tourism businesses to put plans in place that would save livelihoods and sustain the tourism value chain, ensuring that the tourism and hospitality sector continues to make a significant contribution.
"While we understand that the discovery of variants holds global importance, making these announcements without providing depth and detail causes mass panic and creates knee-jerk reactions, not only from the UK government but indeed governments from around the world.
"We are feeling the ripple effects thereof on the ground as ordinary South Africans who have already had to endure unacceptable hardships. The tourism and hospitality sector continues to bear the brunt of the country’s reputational damage with each variant discovery and inevitable lockdowns stemming the spread of Covid-19,“ he said.
Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said she was disappointed following announcements by the UK to place South Africa back on the red.
Japan, Israel and the EU have all moved to place stricter measures against South African travelling to their part of the world.
"While this is most disappointing, South Africa will continue working with policy makers in the UK, Japan, Israel and European Union to ensure that the best possible interventions are put in place. I would like to commend the South African scientists on their diligence and all the work they have done, and remain confident that all measures will be put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus.
"We remain open for business and tourism travel and we appreciate the continued support from various partners across the world and are confident that through the tourism recovery plan in place, we will reignite demand and once more be tourism strong," Sisulu said.
The managing director of The Capital Hotels and Apartments, Marc Wachsberger, said variants were found in every country all over the world.
"Variant hunters analyse the data, check vaccine efficacy, and then announce if there is any concern. So why do our South African scientists have to take so much pride in finding variants and then announcing them so publicly, without first analysing vaccine efficacy?" Wachsberger asked.
"We launched two hotels this week and I saw the smiles of the hundreds of newly employed members of The Capital family, beaming with positivity and hope for a new future, after months, if not years, of unemployment. We were heading in the right direction.
"And then the NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] announced that it had identified a new variant of Covid-19, that has since been dubbed the ‘Nu’ variant – followed quickly by inbound travel bans from countries from whom tourists were going to give our tourist industry a chance at survival this holiday season," he said.