Germany, but not Austria or Switzerland? Tourism companies want SA’s travel red list explained

Business Insider SA
Cape Town and the 12 Apostels from above in South
  • Tourism bodies have asked government to explain how South Africa's red list for international travel was compiled.
  • Government on Wednesday announced the list of countries that have been red-carded, saying that it would be reviewed every two weeks.
  • But tourism bodies believe this may be a mistake.
  • The first tourists to enter the country in six months touched down in Joburg on Thursday morning.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider South Africa.

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has called for an urgent meeting with government to explain how South Africa’s travel red list was compiled, after the country's first international tourists touched down in Johannesburg on Thursday.

“We are pleased that international borders are finally reopening so that the tourism sector can get back to work, contribute to the economy and save jobs. This is what we have been lobbying for fervently for many months,” says Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO TBCSA.  

“However, it is critical that government meets with private sector as a matter of urgency to clarify the method used to draft the list of high-risk countries and the practicalities surrounding this suggested phased reopening, so that this can be examined and its feasibility determined. This is especially since there is no public health reason to ban travellers from any country, provided the testing regime and protocols are adhered to,” says Tshivhengwa.  

Lufthansa became the first international airline to bring tourists into the country, landing at OR Tambo International Airport on Thursday morning, just hours after the ban on leisure travellers entering South Africa was lifted.

Lufthansa, flight LH 572 lands at OR Tambo International airport. (Supplied)

See also: Hours after travel ban is lifted, first flight from Europe lands in Joburg

While its neighbours - including the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Austria - are on the red list, German leisure travellers, along with those from another key tourism market, China, are free to visit South Africa. 

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Germany recorded 25,865 confirmed Covid-19 infections over the past 14 days, compared to Austria at 10,305 and Switzerland with 5,008.

Two key tourism markets for South Africa - the UK and the US - remain on the red list. 

"Without them we have to remain cautious about international tourism,"  says Graham Wood, chief operating officer of hospitality at the hotel group Sun International. "Germany and China are key partners for us but it will take a while for both of these markets to bounce back to pre-lockdown levels."  

A full list of "high-risk" countries on South Africa’s so-called red list was announced on Wednesday, after South Africa closed its borders in March, as part of its lockdown to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.

Leisure travellers from these regions will not be allowed to enter the country for now, regardless of whether they can produce a negative coronavirus test, or are willing to self-isolate after arrival in SA.

See also: No UK or US tourists: Here is South Africa’s full red list of countries

The list is due to be reviewed every two weeks. 

Tshivhengwa, however, maintains that this is largely impractical.

“Inbound international travellers need time to plan their travel. Changing the list of unbanned countries every two weeks introduces a layer of complexity and uncertainty that will lead to erratic booking cycles and confusion amongst travellers.    

“It will also deter foreign governments from giving the green light for their citizens to travel to South Africa as they seek certainty about our entry requirements, as well as deter airlines from operating on the route. There are just too many nuances in tourism for a phased international reopening to be practical, especially if the goalposts change continuously,” says Tshivhengwa.  

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the reopening of South Africa's borders for leisure travellers in mid-September.

South Africa, however, remains red-listed by many countries. Visitors from Germany will have to self-isolate on their return, as South Africa is still not on its list of low-risk countries.

See also: Even with open borders, SA remains red-listed by many countries, and tourists may not come

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