Omicron travel ban hits SA’s safari business

 Wednesday, December 8, 2021 


The recently imposed travel ban on South Africa and its adjoining countries with the identification of omicron variant in southern Africa have knocked the sprawling safari business of the country, already hard hit by the pandemic.

Last year, the tourism industry of South Africa experienced a more than 70% decline in foreign tourist numbers with COVID-19 held responsible for the drop from about 15 million visitors in 2019 to less than 5 million last year. Tourism comprises about 4.7% of South Africa’s workforce.

The largest source of tourists to South Africa, Britain in October, has lifted its “red list” travel restrictions on South Africa and safari operators were hopeful to see a better picture for the upcoming holiday season and 2022. However, the news of omicron brought new international flight restrictions.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African President, has condemned the travel bans imposed by Britain and many others, including some African countries as “hypocritical, harsh and not supported by science.” He denounced the restrictions as “travel apartheid.”

With this, many lodges in South Africa have started experiencing cancellations and few new reservations, said Fred Plachesi, owner of the Tamboti Bush Lodge in the Dinokeng Game Reserve, north of the Tshwane metropolitan area, which includes Pretoria.

In the weekend, only four guests are there. Plachesi said that his business has already started smelling the damage. He considers that the ban on South Africa is unjust and will have a negative impact on its natives.

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