The association of Covid-19 variants with SA have damaged the country’s brand reputation as a tourist destination.
This is the view of tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu who recently concluded her four-day working visit in the United Arab Emirates where she also visited the under way Dubai World Expo.
SA and several southern African countries were slapped with travel bans by most developed countries, including the US and the United Kingdom after the new Covid-19 variant — Omicron — was discovered, sparking fears worldwide.
Although Sisulu felt that the country’s brand reputation took a knock due to the country being associated with Covid-19 new variants, she however said she found comfort as some countries have begun removing SA from the travel red list.
“As countries begin to relax barriers to and from SA, increased resumption of travel us likely to occur and speed up the recovery of the industry,” Sisulu said.
She said the tourism sector would continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the country is removed from travel bans imposed on it after the discovery of Omnicron.
The United Kingdom, which accounts for the majority of travellers and tourists coming to SA last week removed the country and 10 other countries from its red list.
This meant travellers from countries on the list or who had been in transit were now no longer required to do a mandatory ten-day hotel quarantine on arrival.
The countries included Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Sisulu also met with representatives from the SA diplomatic missions in the Middle East and emphasised that the region and its two strategic air hubs, Dubai and Doha needed to be prioritised by the country’s tourism sector.
“SA should continue to align tourism products and experiences to provide seamless service to the Muslim traveller,” Sisulu said.