Early detection of SA Covid variant a significant advantage in reviving country's tourism: Report

Fakir Hassen
·2-min read

Johannesburg, Apr 10 (PTI) The early detection of the more contagious South African variant of the coronavirus may turn out to be a significant advantage for reviving tourism in the country, according to the country’s tourism authority.

In its latest report titled ‘The Road to Recovery’, South African Tourism (SAT) says that in the longer term, the 501Y.V2 variant has specifically been targeted in lab and clinical trials as a benchmark of efficacy against variants.

“This places South Africa ahead in gaining swift access to booster vaccines specific to the 501Y.V2 variant, which are in many instances already in production and testing,” it said, adding that early detection of the variant may turn out to be a significant advantage for reviving tourism in the country. However, despite this advantage, concerns over the 501Y.V2 variant being prevalent in South Africa resulted in travel restrictions to South Africa.

The more contagious variant, first identified late last year drove the second wave of infections in South Africa that peaked in January and spread to many other countries in Africa as well as other continents.

The report said that a major change in the huge drop of international tourism is now only expected in 2022, dependent on the vaccination rollout in many countries.

“The outlook for resumption of international travel for tourism is still minimal. The rollout of vaccinations will increase consumer trust in travel but the impacts of this on international travel will likely only begin as more countries reach acceptable vaccination thresholds.

“At current vaccination rates, this may only be expected towards 2022,” the report said.

Tourism experts had earlier predicted that global tourism could start to rebound by the third quarter of this year, but delays in global vaccination roll outs and unpredictable waves of new infections have resulted in a reviewed position that the recovery of international tourism will occur more gradually.

“All regions, including South Africa, are still experiencing reductions in international tourism of more than 70 per cent compared to pre-Covid,” SAT said.

The report highlighted the importance of African regional travel.

“Barriers to travel from regional countries are low. Despite arrivals still being reduced, African arrivals are almost ten times higher than international arrivals, highlighting the importance of regional travel for rebuilding tourism,” the report stated.

Domestic tourism has also seen a recovery in overnight trips of 50 per cent compared to 2019, when the country remained in strict lockdown for most of the year.

The report said South Africa’s weekly case rates are well below the globally accepted high-risk threshold required to regain tourism.

“The key focus needs to be the efficient roll-out of the vaccine. South African Tourism will again highlight the need for tourism frontline workers to be prioritised in Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout scheduled to begin in May,” the report concluded. PTI FH PMS PMS PMS