UK travel restrictions infuriate South Africa’s tourism industry
Johannesburg – South Africa’s main inbound tourism industry body is lobbying UK politicians to remove the country from its so-called coronavirus travel red list, which it says is incompatible with scientific evidence and is wrecking relations between the nations. The curbs were based on the discovery of the beta variant in the country even though the incidence of that mutation in South Africa is now minimal, SATSA, which represents 1,350 businesses, said in a presentation dated 10 August. Covid-19 infections in both South Africa and the UK are dominated by the delta variant, which was first detected in India. The UK accounted for 17% of South Africa’s 2.6 million foreign tourists in 2019, making it the biggest source market. The placing of South Africa on the red list about eight months ago means that tourists from the UK have to quarantine for 10 days at their own expense in government-selected hotels when they return. Vaccinated travellers from Germany, the US, France and other key markets can go home from South Africa without quarantining.
Some good news for South Africa as some travel restrictions are eased
Johannesburg – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has eased travel restrictions on South Africa, with the country also relaxing entry protocols for travellers. The change means that passengers will be allowed to travel to their final destination through Dubai from South Africa – subject to specific requirements. All passengers must still complete all the requirements of their final destination and present a negative Covid‑19 PCR test certificate for a test taken 72 hours or fewer before departure or as required by their final destination. Only Covid‑19 PCR test reports from certified labs that issue a QR code linked to the original report will be accepted. The UAE is the latest major travel market to ease restrictions on South Africa, with several major European countries also beginning to reopen travel. On 1 August, the German government said that South Africa is no longer listed as an area of concern but “only” a high-risk area. The general travel ban has also been lifted. Similarly, Spain has lifted its complete travel ban on South Africa from 3 August but still requires travellers to quarantine for 10 days even if they are fully vaccinated.
Austria opens to fully vaccinated SA travellers
Johannesburg – Countries in Europe are slowly reopening their borders to South African visitors, on condition that they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and, in most cases, can prove compelling reasons to travel. The latest to do so is Austria. South African travellers have been some of the most restricted in the world throughout 2021. Although most countries have self-isolated during the pandemic, the discovery of the Beta variant – which is more transmissible and vaccine-evasive than the original Covid-19 strain – played a prominent role in shutting South African travellers out from the rest of the world. But the global vaccine rollout, which has reached more than 4.7 billion people, is paving the way for the resumption of international travel. The detection of other Covid-19 mutations – namely Delta, which is more transmissible than Beta and dominant in most parts of the world – has also started to shift the focus away from the “South African variant” narrative which persisted for most of the year. Germany is a recent example of this shift. After much petitioning by frustrated couples, students, and workers, Germany ended its strict seven-month travel ban on South Africans by revising its “variants of concern” categorisation. Despite being gripped by a third wave of Covid-19 infections, South Africa has been removed from several red lists in Europe over the past month. In addition to Germany, the most notable travel changes have come from Spain, France, Switzerland, and Finland which now all allow fully vaccinated South African travellers to enter, with Austria also no added to the list. But being vaccinated isn’t the only exonerating factor. In most cases, leisure travel remains off limits and visitors will need to provide compelling reasons – like work and family responsibilities – to be permitted clearance to enter. Austria is the latest country to downgrade South Africa’s risk level, following the same reasoning used by Germany in identifying Delta as the dominant variant throughout Europe and South Africa.
Source: Business Insider SA
South Africa wants to introduce a vaccine passport – but there’s a catch
Pretoria – The Department of Tourism says that it wants to introduce a vaccine passport for South Africa. Still, several international and legislative hurdles need to be addressed. Briefing parliament on Tuesday 17 August, Tourism director-general Nkhumeleni Victor Tharage said that the key issue is a lack of standardisation around vaccine passports worldwide. “Even in some jurisdictions that have opted to apply this (passport), there isn’t yet a sense of uniformity. When we don’t have a single, standardised specimen, it is a little bit difficult to say which one is which. If South Africa introduces (a passport), and there is access to information from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) that confirms that a person has been vaccinated, the question is if that person arrives in Lagos (Nigeria), what resources will they use to verify this information that is stored on a database in South Africa?” Tharage said that South Africa faces the same dilemma in verifying tourists that arrive in the country from overseas. He said that the government was also cautious about introducing a vaccine passport system that is discriminatory against certain groups of people. Another issue considered for the vaccine passport is whether they will be a requirement for events. Tharage said he was confident that this is something that the government could easily introduce on short notice.
Closure of Plettenberg Bay Airport to commercial flights sparks outcry
Plettenberg Bay – All commercial flights from South Africa to the award-winning holiday destination of Plettenberg Bay have been suspended as a result of the aviation authority SACAA downgrading the airport. It was confirmed by SACAA communications manager Marie Bray that it’s inspectorate had “met and had a discussion with the Bitou Municipality to address severe non-compliances relating to the aerodrome, in the interest of aviation safety and security. The municipality took the decision to downgrade their aerodrome, from Category 4 to Category 2, in order to allow themselves enough time to address these outstanding non-compliance issues.” The aviation authority said that charter and private operations would not be affected – and that “all further queries relating resumption of flights, notice given, and so on, may be addressed to the municipality”. The closure of the airport has caused an uproar on the Garden Route as it is used by local businessmen who live in Plettenberg Bay and rely on it for business travel, while domestic and foreign tourists will also be affected. Bitou Municipality communications manager Andile Namtu said they were aware of the fact that the “SA Civil Aviation Authority has downgraded the status of the Plettenberg Aerodrome”.
The high cost of SA airfare tickets debate
If you ask anyone about the cost of flights in South Africa, people offer different viewpoints. Some people believe that current prices are too expensive for travellers, claiming that airlines are ripping them off. Others believe the prices are justified as many South African airlines have halted their operations. Airlines, who have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, maintain that the cost of an air ticket is based on supply and demand and that the cost of flights can’t be avoided. If one looks at the prices of an air ticket from King Shaka International Airport in Durban to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, the average flight cost for travel date August 22 is about R2 000 one way. For September 1, the same route rate averages R800. Rates differ according to routes and days of travel. Some travel agents claim that flight prices deterred their South African clients from exploring locally. Durban based travel agent Jennifer Morris described the costs as horrendous. Johannesburg travel agent Modipadi Phoku said the pandemic made travel unattainable for the average South African. Oz Desai, the general manager at Corporate Traveller, said flight prices normalised again following July’s level 4 price hike.
Source: Clinton Moodley / IOL
The Marine in Hermanus offers discounts for local whale-watchers
Hermanus – Whale-watching season, in Hermanus, is in full swing and The Marine hotel is inviting locals to make the most of this special time of the year, by booking a stay at up to 25% discount on the bed and breakfast rate. Traditionally, whale watching season falls between July and November when Southern Right whales are spotted frolicking in the beautiful bays of Hermanus. At The Marine guests are encouraged to keep their ears open for the whale bell, which gets rung at the hotel whenever a whale is spotted in the bay below. The Southern Right whale is one of the largest species of whale with females between 14 and 16 meters long and males from 13 to 15 meters, and adult whales weighing between 40 and 50 tons. The team at The Marine is passionate about whale conservation and committed to supporting the Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit, which offers symbolic adoptions of the best-known Southern Right whales. Located on Hermanus’ famous cliff path, overlooking the breathtaking Walker Bay, The Marine is currently offering excellent savings for those needing a break and a change of scenery. Families with children are welcome, as well as their ‘furry friends’. The Marine also offers the option to book a dedicated wing ideal for families and multi-generational travel. Rates start at R2,800 per room per night and include full English breakfast, as well as complimentary minibar. All room types feature free WIFI and have a desk or dedicated workspace available to cater to guests needing to work during their stay. All Covid-19 safety protocols are in place.
Source: FiveStar PR
‘Visit Stellenbosch’ unveils exciting new festival of gardens
Stellenbosch – Stellenbosch is pulling out the stops for gardeners and lovers of the great outdoors in a new, week-long festival that will transform its streets and surrounding countryside from 30 September to 10 October. Major drawcards include a first-ever Stellenbosch winelands experience featuring SA Michelin star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. The inaugural Garden Week Stellenbosch – inspired by the world-famous flower festival of Girona, Spain – will encompass everything from horticultural tours to landscape art; dining to hiking; and guest specialists to music in majestic settings. In addition
to many highlights, a flower parade will officially launch Garden Week Stellenbosch on 30 September. The event is an initiative of Visit Stellenbosch, a destination marketing organisation comprising the region’s tourism stakeholders with the objective of growing the tourism and experience economy in Stellenbosch for the benefit of all communities. Garden Week takes place in the run-up to National Garden Day on 17 October and encompasses the school break. Some of the region’s most splendid public gardens will be open to visitors, including the historic Old Nectar estate in the Jonkershoek Valley; the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden in Paradyskloof; Spier Wine Farm, whose workshops include one for children; and, Delaire Graff Estate. The owners of some 20 private gardens will participate too, giving visitors a rare glimpse of exquisite and usually inaccessible spaces. Guided walks give visitors the chance to enjoy the gardens in the company of guides while the more energetic might wish to undertake fynbos wilderness hikes on offer. The Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens has compiled a special programme of daily walks and talks to be presented by acclaimed specialists. Workshops are also to be presented at the Rupert Museum; Blaauwklippen Wine Farm off the R44; Jordan Wines; Spier Estate and Babylonstoren, where tours will be presented by Ernst van Jaarsveld. Topics include flower arranging, dye art, photography, growing-your-own and learning about bees. For budding artists, the Stellenbosch Arts Association will present a botanical drawing workshop.The town’s food and wine reputation will also be showcased in festival-inspired dishes to feature on menus as well as a series of garden-and-wine dining events.
Source: Random Hat Communications