by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG – THE lifting of the travel restrictions come as too little too late amid the R1 billion lost by the South African tourism industry in cancelled bookings.
However, South Africa has welcomed the decision by European Union (EU) countries to remove the country from red lists imposed following the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
“While these moves are welcomed, it comes after the peak of the tourist season and in the wake of over R1 billion lost in cancelled bookings following re-imposition of travel bans in late November,” said Tourism minister, Lindiwe Sisulu.
“We welcome EU’s visitors to our country and are assured that their safety is guaranteed,” Sisulu added.
“We remain grateful and open and we appreciate the continued support from various partners across the world.”
Sisulu also thanked tourism stakeholders that have lobbied with her to ensure South Africa is removed from all red lists.
“This is the culmination of sustained advocacy efforts and dedication of all tourism stakeholders. The war room which we put together is yielding results.
“Let us continue to work hand in hand to revive our industry.”
EU member states on Monday agreed to lift the air travel ban on South Africa and other southern African countries, which will allow more travel to resume.
Travellers from the region will still be subject to health measures applicable to travellers from third countries.
European nations had suspended most air travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe as scientists tussled to assess the severity of the new variant.
The bloc maintained the limits even after cases continued to surge around the world, despite an outcry from the region.
COVID-19 has hampered international travel to South Africa, which has the continent’s worst caseload and the 18th worst outbreak globally.
South Africa received 10,2 million international overnight visitors in 2019.
In 2020, this dropped sharply to 3,2 million – almost 70 percent fewer than in 2019.
The number of inbound visitors in 2021 hampered by travel bans remained low.
In 2021, South Africa only received 386 937 tourist arrivals, indicating a decline of 84,1 percent.
– CAJ News