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Newly discovered coronavirus variant poses a threat to tourism economy

Cape Town Tourism (CTT) continues to focus on health safety, and readiness to attract tourists through strong initiatives in the domestic as well as international markets. Picture: Paul Sancya

Cape Town Tourism (CTT) continues to focus on health safety, and readiness to attract tourists through strong initiatives in the domestic as well as international markets. Picture: Paul Sancya

Published Nov 30, 2021

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Cape Town - Cape Town Tourism (CTT) is concerned over the newly discovered omicron coronavirus variant and subsequent reinstatement of South Africa on the UK red list, as well as multiple travel bans from other countries.

They say that this unfortunately will have a devastating impact on the tourism economy and a number of livelihoods which rely on visitors and the business during this period.

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This comes after the Western Cape Government and its partners joined together to assist stranded passengers at Cape Town International Airport, following the cancellation of numerous flights out of the country.

The Provincial MEC of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, said: “We are devastated that, at the very moment recovery was kicking in, we have been hit by a new variant which has turned things upside down and which is a major setback for our tourism and hospitality sector in the Western Cape.’

“In response, I have convened daily co-ordination meetings with our partners, including my department, ACSA, and Wesgro. We have been working around the clock to assist passengers who have been stranded by providing access to transport and accommodation, and by liaising with consulates to assist where necessary,” he added.

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Several planned tourism events will most likely be cancelled should harsher lockdown restrictions be implemented.

CTT Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth, James Vos, said the tourism industry has endured a difficult 20 months which have simply not been sustainable in allowing businesses to remain open and livelihoods to remain intact.

‘’These latest travel bans have really been a bitter pill to swallow. The fact that the excellent work of our world-class scientists led to subsequent travel bans being rapidly imposed on us by our key source markets, is shocking and will continue to have a substantial negative impact on local tourism,’’ said Vos.

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‘’We understand these leaders’ duty to protect their citizens from new variants, which led to their panicked imposition of travel bans. We therefore hope and plead that as rapidly as these countries have been in imposing travel bans on us, they will be equally hurried in removing these restrictions as further data emerges as to their ineffectiveness and the dire costs to our economy.

‘’We are heading into what should be our peak tourism season and this recent announcement is gut-wrenching as we hoped we could move our efforts from tourism recovery to tourism readiness,’’ he added.

He said they will be meeting regularly with the Tourism Task Team to plot and implement the next steps under the banners of containment, adjustment and recovery, details of which will be shared in the coming days. This includes their exciting domestic tourism campaign for local travellers who make up the bulk of visitors to Cape Town and are a pillar of strength for the industry.

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Marriott International regional office communications manager Nelisa Mpofana said the impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality industry has been unprecedented. Meanwhile travel restrictions and social distancing efforts around the world have resulted in weaker demand and economic uncertainty. For their accommodation establishments, mandatory vaccinations do not apply at this stage.

’’We fully support the stance taken by the government as communicated during the president’s address on Sunday, November 28. We believe the best way to respond to the virus is by providing full support to increasing vaccination efforts,’’ she said.

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