Airlines Association of Southern Africa Chief Executive Officer Chris Zweigenthal has today joined the call by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa to open up the country’s borders to international travel.
The recently announced 51% decline in South Africa’s GDP during Q2 has highlighted the need for swift measures to aid South Africa’s ailing economy and the tourism and aviation sectors are among those sectors hardest hit.
Conversely these two sectors also have the greatest potential to stimulate inclusive economic growth and employment.
International tourism can reopen safely, but it requires an enabling environment, which includes the reopening of international borders, an improved visa regime, air access and better safety for tourists, said Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).
“Tourism can be South Africa’s economic lifeline, but only if international borders are opened up soon,” he said.
“We are appealing to the Government to safely open our borders. Our industry is ready; our source markets are waiting to travel, so let’s save jobs and the economy.”
Meanwhile AASA CEO Zweigenthal – who serves as a director on the board of TBCSA – told World Airnews that AASA is wholeheartedly supporting this call.
He said operationally the airlines and airports will be ready when the authority is given to open the borders.
“South Africa has passed the peak and health experts are confirming that there is no reason not to fully open the economy and the borders. Given the health and safety protocols that are in place and must be complied with, the risk of transmission of the virus is low.
“We cannot wait for a vaccine or for the infection rates to go to zero. Everything South Africa did has prepared us to mitigate the risks and deal with the infections where it occurs”
He said the aviation industry, represented by AASA, BARSA and IATA have all made a number of submissions to government to recommend the opening up of the borders as well as seeking some forms of financial relief to assist the airline industry.
“In addition, AASA and BARSA has worked closely with the SA Civil Aviation Authority which is coordinating the South African aviation sector’s submission to the director-general and Minister of Transport motivating for the re-opening of the borders, the recommencement of regional and international travel, as well as attending to the many practical issues that need to be addressed with the government to enable re-opening the borders and regional and international travel.
He said his organisation would like to see the borders opened by as soon as 1 October.
“South Africa needs to set a date to enable airlines, travel and tourism to have a target to work to, for marketing purposes and to enable passengers to make reservations in good time.
“Tourists, both South African and International, are now at a critical stage of making decisions to travel over the December / January holiday period. If South Africa holds back further on its decision, we run the risk of losing a whole sector of tourists that wish to visit South Africa and other destinations”
An IATA spokesperson said, “IATA fully supports the lobbying effort by South Africa’s air travel and tourism industry to persuade the government to reopen the borders and skies to international air travel. The restart of domestic air travel in South Africa demonstrated that the recommended global bio-security measures for safe air travel are effective. There is every reason to believe they will be just as effective when applied to travellers going to or coming from other countries in Africa or further afield.”
“There is a powerful economic imperative for restarting regional and long-haul travel. As things currently stand, and without prolonging the travel restrictions or imposing new measures, there will be about 16.6 million fewer passenger journeys to, from and within South Africa this year. This has put at risk more than half of the 472 000 local jobs in aviation, tourism and their supply chains. It also means that air travel and tourism’s US$5,8 billion (ZAR97 billion) contribution to South Africa’s GDP will be foregone.”