A sigh of relief for the country went up from the local tourism industry, who were waiting to hear if further lockdown restrictions would be the grinch to steal their holiday cheer.
Yesterday Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla called for stronger compliance with Covid protocols during the festive season, as the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) retained lockdown at level 1.
The Association of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata) chief executive Otto de Vries said the travel bans imposed on South Africa were nothing short of devastating.
“Forward bookings collapsed, with feedback from the industry suggesting that bookings until mid-February 2022 were severely impacted,” he said.
Tourism Business Council of South Africa CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said millions of people across Southern Africa were dependent on tourism for an income.
“Thousands more families are waiting anxiously to know if their loved ones will be home for the holidays,” he said.
Yvonne Smit had to put her plans to visit her children in London for Christmas on hold after the country was placed on the red list last month. She immediately booked her ticket and packed her bag to fly this weekend.
The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) has welcomed the announcement to maintain South Africa at Level 1.
Fedhasa chair Rosemary Anderson said: “Not only will the removal of the UK red listing be the foundation on which we can rebuild, but we are also relieved that additional restrictions have not been imposed locally.”
Meanwhile, the Direct Pay Online Group’s Brendon Williamson said it would be some time before global travel to SA reached pre-Covid levels again.
“We must focus on securing business from locals in the meanwhile,” Williamson said.
“The great thing is that we are seeing just how keen local tourists are to explore their own country.”