The announcement that the country will remain on the widely talked about UK red list has drawn much criticism from the South African travel industry. Picture: Pexels
The announcement that the country will remain on the widely talked about UK red list has drawn much criticism from the South African travel industry. Picture: Pexels

UK vs SA: The red list debacle continues with repercussions for South African tourism sector

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Sep 20, 2021

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South Africa's hopes of luring back UK travellers to their sunny shores were dashed at the weekend as it remains on the red list.

The announcement that the country will remain on the widely talked about list has drawn much criticism from the South African travel industry.

“This is a kick in the teeth for 1.5 million South African tourism workers who were relying on UK visitors this spring," said CEO of the South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA), David Frost.

He believes that the "UK government has an irrational fear of South Africa which is prejudicing decision-making."

According to Frost, there "isn’t a shred of scientific evidence" to support keeping South Africa on the red list.

"The UK government needs to urgently reconsider this classification to avoid irreparable harm to a relationship with a key ally and trading partner," he said.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa Naledi Pandor said her department aims to intensify efforts to remove South Africa from the list.

She is optimistic that the UK government will finally realise that their decision is not harming the tourism industry but other businesses from both countries.

“We firmly believe there is no reasonable basis for keeping South Africa on the red list, and I am very disappointed," she said.

ASATA CEO Otto de Vries said they will continue to fight to get South Africa off the red list and other travel advisories.

"ASATA is deeply disappointed by the outcome of the UK review of the traffic light system. In the past month, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Finland, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Mauritius, Seychelles and Spain have all relaxed travel restrictions for fully vaccinated South Africans. These countries highlighted that being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 exempts travellers from mandatory quarantines.

" We maintain that travellers who can provide proof of vaccination should be allowed access to and from the country without Covid-19 tests or quarantines. For those who are not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated, a negative PCR test should be presented.

"The complexity and cost associated with South Africa being classified as a ‘red list’ destination will continue to be a major deterrent for South African travellers," he explained.

FEDHASA National Chairperson Rosemary Anderson agreed.

"Besides being one of the biggest source markets for South Africa, the travel restrictions have severely impacted trade and tourism between South Africa and the UK.

"FEDHASA will continue to support the lobbying efforts to remove SA from the so-called red list and hope to see a return to travel from and to the UK soon," she said.

Busi Mavuso, Chief Executive of Business Leadership South Africa, described the decision to keep SA on the red list as 'baffling'.

“This is a baffling decision by the UK which appears to fly in the face of the scientific evidence they profess to follow. If the UK wants to project its values and free-market principles abroad, this is an odd way to go about it. We now need a clear and swift commitment from the British government that it will review South Africa’s travel status in the coming days," said Mavuso.

SA-UK demand

It seems this decision also affects South African travellers, who have to undergo quarantine once in the UK.

According to Cheapflights, there has been a 24% increase in flight searches to the UK in the past week. The average price for September flights costs R9220.

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