The international narrative which describes the 501Y.V2 Covid-19 variant as the “South African strain” has damaged tourism at a time when the travel industry can least afford it. Government has now tasked two South African agencies with conducting a “robust global PR exercise” to correct perceptions around the variant and allay fears of foreign visitors.
South Africa’s tourism industry, which contributed 1.5 million jobs and R425.8 billion to the economy in 2018, accounting for 8.6% of the total GDP, is largely reliant on international visitors. The global pandemic’s impact on travel, with blanket border closures and strict quarantine measures dissuading holidaymakers, has been severe.
Businesses in the tourism sector reported that revenue had more than halved, even with domestic travel allowed under the lighter levels of lockdown. Almost a third of these businesses have been forced to closed, according to a report by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).
While international travel restrictions were entirely responsible for tourism’s downturn in 2020, persistent health concerns continue to subdue visitors. The global vaccination drive is likely to allay these fears and, in time, support a surge in international travel.
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