Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says that her department is busy setting up bilateral meetings with ambassadors of countries that have flagged South Africa over the 501Y.V2 variant of Covid-19.
Briefing parliament on Tuesday (9 March), the minister said that the country’s association with the 501Y.V2 variant of Covid-19 could cause damage to tourism.
In addition to key target markets such as the US and UK, South Africa has also been flagged as a risk by a number of other European countries including Belgium, France, Germany, and Switzerland.
The variant was first discovered and reported by scientists in South Africa, however it has also been found to be spreading in more than 48 other countries.
By calling it the “South African variant”, a global impression has been given that South Africa is the source of the spread – when this is not the case.
In response, MPs urged Kubayi-Ngubane to make the international tourist market aware that it is not only in South Africa where there is a new variant, as there were new variants found in other countries as well.
As there were signs of recovery in tourism due to the lowering of the alert levels, parliament also advised South African Tourism to develop a communications and marketing strategy to reinvigorate domestic tourism in villages, townships and small dorpies.
It added that special tourist packages should be developed to inspire and motivate South Africans to travel within the country to keep the industry afloat.
Data published in the briefing shows that South Africa’s tourism industry is facing an uphill battle as international tourist arrivals declined by 70% in 2020 due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic,
Most experts in the industry do not foresee a return to pre-pandemic levels happening before 2023.
The United Nations World Travel Organisation’s extended scenarios for 2021-2024 indicate that it could take between two-and-a-half and four years for international tourism to return to 2019 levels.