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UK red list could see SA economy incur losses up to R181m per week, warns WTTC

According to research conducted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the South African economy could face massive losses of more than R181m every week it's on the UK's red list for travel.
Source: Michal Parzuchowski via
Source: Michal Parzuchowski via Unsplash

The study conducted by WTTC, reveals the consequences the UK 'red list' represents to the South African travel and tourism sector, and the nation’s economy, which have both been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

All UK travellers, regardless of their vaccine status, travelling to countries on the 'red list', which includes South Africa, are required to cover the expensive cost of a 10-day hotel quarantine upon returning to the UK, plus the fees for Covid-19 tests.

The approach taken by other European countries such as Germany, France and Switzerland, where quarantine is no longer required for fully vaccinated citizens travelling to South Africa, can still slow the spread of Covid-19 while enabling mobility and providing a boost to the economy.

Based on 2019 UK visitor numbers and spending, the global tourism body’s research shows these restrictions, which are deterring Brits from travelling to South Africa, could represent losses of over ZAR 790 million every month, equating to more than R26mn every single day.

Mitigating red list risks

Virginia Messina, senior vice president, said: "The impact the UK’s traffic light system imposes on red list countries is not only damaging the travel and tourism sector, but also economies around the world. Our data shows that every day South Africa remains on the UK’s red list, the country faces losing millions of dollars, effectively delaying the global socio-economic recovery.

"Our data shows how vital the travel and tourism sector is to rebooting the country’s economy.

"As a result of the pandemic bringing travel and tourism almost to a halt, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost across South Africa, pushing more people into poverty, which shows how crucial it is to restart safe international travel and reduce mobility restrictions.

Accelerating vaccine rollouts

"WTTC is calling on governments around the world to accelerate the rollout of vaccines as a catalyst to restart international travel and rescue the struggling global travel and tourism sector.

"Furthermore, we are also encouraging governments of red list countries to work closely with their UK counterparts to ensure the very latest data is shared, so the country can be moved from the economically damaging red list to the amber list as soon as possible."

Key findings

According to WTTC’s annual Economic Impact Report (EIR), in 2019 South Africa was among the most popular destinations for UK travellers, accounting for 7% of international visitor spending, representing R9.4bn. WTTC’s report also shows the impact the pandemic has had over the country’s employment, with over 470,000 jobs lost due to lack of international travel.

The EIR also reveals the effect Covid-19 had on South Africa’s economy, with the travel and tourism sector’s contribution to the national economy falling from R363bn (6.9%) in 2019, to just R182bn (3.7%) in 2020.

International visitor spending also fell by 66%, from more than R134bn in 2019 to R46bn in 2020.

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