South Africa’s borders are open to a number of international travellers and the award-winning and very popular bucket-list destination, Cape Town, is ready to welcome all guests with open arms – as soon as countries and regions such as the United Kingdom remove South Africa from their ‘red list’ of travel destinations.
“The UK has taken steps and made decisions to effectively block their residents from travelling to South Africa and other African countries and regions,” says Brett Hendricks, chairperson of the Cape Town Tourism board. “SATSA and other industry stakeholders are working hard to change this and to open up travel from what is one of our key source markets.”
Several factors have played a role in South Africa’s addition to the ‘red list’, most notably concerns around the efficacy of vaccines against the Beta variant, the slow start of our vaccine roll out and South Africa’s medical status and readiness. The labelling of variants based on their origin has also done immense damage to destination South Africa’s reputation.
Despite the country’s potential for travel in a Covid-19 world and its popularity in international polls as a favourite destination for travellers craving its wide-open spaces, low density travel experiences and good weather, regulations and restrictions hampering travel are only now slowly being lifted, with Germany being the latest country to open travel to South Africa for its vaccinated citizens.
In the case of the UK, industry bodies are doing all that they can to provide a soft landing for British politicians to call for the lifting of the ‘red list’ embargo and establish broad political support for that decision. To achieve this the lobby has worked with South Africa’s scientific and medical community to demonstrate the country’s credibility and expertise.
“As per Stats SA, the UK topped the overseas visitor list for South Africa in both 2019 and 2020.
We are hoping that these efforts allow South Africa to have a voice in the UK travel debate that is currently happening,” notes Hendricks.
Close to 60% of the UK population are already fully vaccinated with the end of the UK vaccination programme looking likely to coincide with the start of the tourist season in South Africa and, importantly, in Cape Town.
“We know there is pent-up demand for British travellers to visit Cape Town, but that current restrictions make this almost impossible and prohibitively expensive,” says David Frost, CEO of SATSA.
“We have been spearheading this campaign since May to provide a credible voice for UK-based politicians on the science, economic impact of the ban and impact to conservation and communities caused by the indefinite inclusion of South Africa on the UK’s ‘red list’. The demand for travel to South Africa exists and as the vaccination roll out ramps up and South Africa’s spring is around the corner, we are single-minded in our mission to have restrictions lifted in time for the next season.”
Frost continues: “We assure all travellers visiting our shores that we have put world-class health and hygiene protocols in place to ensure the safety of guests and staff. We have had over a year of robust domestic travel to ensure that tourism establishments and experiences are ready to welcome visitors to Cape Town and South Africa safely.”
For their part, the Cape Town tourism industry has taken safety incredibly seriously. Restaurants have changed seating plans, hotels have adapted to serve food in an entirely different way and have done away with buffet tables, while also looking at ways to do digital check-ins. And gone are the days of congested queues at tourist attractions. In fact, many establishments have taken the opportunity to shake up their menus, elevate their outdoor offerings, upgrade certain facilities, and also focus on a digital approach which limits one-on-one contact. Visitors can therefore benefit not only from slick amenities and wide-open outdoor spaces but also on enjoying a holiday without the crowds.
“We are ready to welcome visitors! We just need to get off the ‘red list’ now. This is why we are throwing our voice and weight behind SATSA on its ‘Red List’ Lobbying Project,” says Hendricks.
“We need to work together to ensure that Cape Town and South Africa continue to be a desirable destination for all. We urge everyone who qualifies to please get vaccinated as soon as possible. We need everyone’s help in making Cape Town a safe destination for all,” he concludes.