A new study from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that the South African economy is losing over R180 million every week it remains on the UK’s ‘red list’ for travel.
All UK travellers, regardless of their vaccine status, travelling to countries on the ‘red list’ are required to cover the expensive cost of a 10-day hotel quarantine upon returning to the UK, plus the fees for Covid-19 tests.
Based on 2019 UK visitor numbers and spending, the global tourism body’s research shows these restrictions could represent losses of over R790 million every month. This equates to more than R26 million every day.
“The impact the UK’s traffic light system imposes on ‘red list’ countries is not only damaging the Travel and Tourism sector, but also economies around the world,” said Virginia Messina, senior vice president of the WTTC.
“Our data shows that every day South Africa remains on the UK’s ‘red list’, the country faces losing millions of dollars, effectively delaying the global socio-economic recovery.”
Messina said that the pandemic has also cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in South Africa, pushing more people into poverty. This makes it crucial to restart safe international travel and reduce mobility restrictions, she said.
More than half of all adults have been fully vaccinated in the UK, which significantly reduces the risk of any citizens travelling abroad, the WTTC said.
While the vaccine rollout has picked up the pace, the figure is considerably lower in South Africa.
Therefore, it is critical for the South African government to continue ramping up the vaccination programme to restart international travel and enable economic recovery, Messina said.
The WTTC’s annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) report shows that in 2019, South Africa was among the most popular destinations for UK travellers, accounting for 7% of international visitor spending, representing R9.4 billion.
The EIR also reveals the effect COVID-19 had on South Africa’s economy, with the Travel and Tourism sector’s contribution to the national economy falling from 363 billion (6.9%) in 2019 to just R182 billion (3.7%) in 2020.
International visitor spending also plummeted by 66%, from more than R134 billion in 2019 to just R46 billion in 2020.
South African restrictions
While South Africa has mostly kept its borders open to international tourists since easing its first hard lockdown in mid-2020, other countries have not reciprocated. South Africans still face strict travel restrictions.
This also impacts travellers who are dissuaded from visiting South Africa because of their difficulties returning to their own countries.
A mapping tool developed by travel website Skyscanner shows that as of 19 August, South Africa has 84 ‘major restrictions’ from other countries in place. This is up from around 60 major restrictions before the third Covid wave hit.
These countries have suspended travel, may be closed to entry, or may only be possible if you are a citizen/meet strict entrance requirements.
By comparison, there are currently 27 moderate restrictions for South Africa, where travel is possible, but only if travellers meet certain entry requirements, including taking Covid-19 tests.