The government needs to do away with its high-risk list or so-called ‘red list’ of Covid-19 hotspot countries or face more chaos around international travel into South Africa.
That’s the warning from major industry bodies the Tourism Business Council of South African (TBCSA) and the Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa), following government’s updating of the list on Monday.
Germany, South Africa’s third largest overseas tourist source market, was added to the list after a spike in Covid-19 infections in that country, together with Canada and other nations like Spain and Italy.
The inclusion of Germany and Canada means that leisure tourists from eight of SA’s top ten international tourist source markets are now effectively banned from travelling to the country’s shores. Other major source markets on the red list include the UK, US, France, Netherlands, India and Brazil.
“We are calling on government to do away with the high-risk or red list, because it makes no sense,” TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa told Moneyweb on Tuesday.
“Business travel from countries on the list is already allowed and we see no difference to leisure tourists, who can follow the same Covid-19 rules, such as having a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours before arrival,” he said.
“The government reducing the number of countries on the high-risk list [from 60 to 22] is simply not good enough.
“We want the list to be scrapped altogether, because changing the list every two weeks simply does not makes sense and will cause chaos for the industry and travellers,” Tshivhengwa added.
“We have seen this already with Germany, Spain and Canada now being added to the list … What happens to travellers who booked during the period that these countries were not on this list and only planned to come this week or in December. They will now have to change their plans,” Tshivhengwa explained.
Satsa CEO David Frost agreed, saying the situation was creating a “dog’s breakfast” with uncertainty and confusion likely to hurt South Africa’s destination brand image especially among its key international source markets in Europe and North America.
“These markets account for around 77% of South Africa’s overseas tourist arrivals. We have to tread carefully as we risk damaging industry relations with these countries,” he said.
“From Satsa’s side we believe that government is handling this whole situation in an appalling manner. They never really consulted with the tourism industry on the technicalities and what needs to happen to reopen international travel to SA in a responsible way that would not hurt the sector’s recovery,” added Frost.”
“We have called for structured engagement with government, but nothing has come of it.… Government needs to work in partnership with the private sector of the tourism industry to do things the right way and in the interest and sustainability of the industry,” he said.
“Government does not transact in the business of tourism and doesn’t understand how the industry works, so it needs to work with the sector. We called for a technical task team over three months ago so we could work together in the reopening of SA to international travel,” he noted.
Frost also called for the red list to be scrapped, saying that if locals and tourists from Africa can travel to SA, why can’t tourists with negative Covid-19 tests from key markets like the UK, Germany and the US.
“We are not going to see the whole of Germany come to SA during these times. However, those that want to travel will travel safely and within the relevant health protocols. No one that wants to travel wants to contract a disease – tourists that are open to travelling will take precautions,” he said.