Tourism council says SA could lose R25bn in revenue if EU travel ban continues

Calls for the resumption of travel.
TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa says the travel ban has become redundant. Image: Supplied

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) in an open letter to the head of the European Union Delegation, Riina Kionka, has called for the resumption of travel between European Union countries and South Africa, saying the country’s tourism sector could lose billions in revenue should it continue.

In the letter released on Tuesday, TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa notes that the country’s tourism sector stands to lose €1.4 billion (about R25 billion) if the travel ban continues.

Tshivhengwa says the ban – which was instated on November 25 – had already cost the sector around €51 million (about R911.7 million) in international booking cancellations in just the first two days.

Read: UK to remove all countries from Covid travel red list

“We know already that when the travel ban was announced on 25th November our sector lost €51 million in the first 48 hours due to cancelled international bookings.

“I cannot overstate the negative impact this travel ban is having on our industry, local communities, and conservation efforts, particularly over our all-important Christmas holiday period,” he writes.

This latest travel ban by the EU on South Africa comes after the discovery of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

Ban ‘serves no use’

However, the council argues that given that community transmissions of the variant have increased in more than 50 countries around the world, the persistence of the EU in maintaining the ban serves no use in slowing down infection rates.

“We are now calling for the EU to reinstate travel between South Africa and your countries on the basis that high infection rates in over 50 countries across the world mean a person is as likely to catch the omicron variant in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels or Paris or as they are in Johannesburg or Cape Town,” writes Tshivhengwa.

Read: Pfizer shot less effective in South Africa after Omicron emerges – study

He argues the travel bans “have become redundant in the face of this reality”.

The UK took the decision to remove South Africa as well as 10 other African countries – Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe – from its travel red list more than a week ago, on December 14.

The council notes that the continuation of the travel ban could see the industry supporting 205 000 fewer annual jobs from the 1.5 million jobs it ordinarily supports directly and indirectly.

Listen to Fifi Peters’s interview with Southern Africa Tourism Services Association CEO David Frost:

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