It’s time to fly again and welcome foreign guests, says Cape Chamber of Commerce
Johannesburg - South Africa's Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday backed calls by airlines worldwide for governments to allow global air travel to resume by lifting restrictions aimed at curbing Covid-19 transmissions.
"Nowhere is the plea echoed more strongly than in the Western Cape, where the Covid-19 disaster and Government’s actions have decimated the tourism industry, putting thousands out of work, shutting down restaurants, even hotels and B & B’s, whose foreign clients have vanished," Cape Chamber president Geoff Jacobs said in a statement.
"The loss in foreign exchange and tax revenues has been enormous. It has meant truncating welfare services, and interfered with high value exports that depended on airlines to deliver to northern hemisphere customers."
Jacobs' comments come after International Air Transport Association director general and chief executive officer Alexandre de Juniac told a media briefing on Tuesday that the industry was immensely frustrated as borders remained largely closed and and governments' management of travel restrictions was "so unpredictable and uncoordinated that people are still not flying".
He said this was despite there being no lack of effort to reassure governments that flying was is safe. Through the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and with the support of the World Health Organization, global protocols for safely re-starting aviation were agreed by governments in June.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa's government has gradually relaxed Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to allow domestic air travel, but foreign flights are still prohibited except for the repatriation of citizens.
On Thursday, the Cape Chamber's Jacobs said lifting the ban on airlines flying internationally not only made economic sense but was backed by the World Health Organization which had developed protocols to allow the safe resumption of air travel, worldwide, keeping passengers safe and reducing the risk of countries importing new cases of the coronavirus.
As of Thursday, nearly 26.2 million people around the world have been infected with the virus first reported in China last December. Of these, almost 868 000 people have lost their lives, but more than 18 million have recovered.
IATA has acknowledged that protecting citizens was a top priority of governments but said too many were fighting a global pandemic in isolation with a view that closing borders is the only solution.
It urged governments to work together to implement measures that would enable economic and social life to resume while controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
Jacobs concurred and noted that other stakeholders held the same view.
"The Western Cape Tourism industry and the National Treasury can only agree. It’s time to fly again and welcome foreign guests," he said.
- African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa