Now that South Africans are prevented from travelling to many overseas countries due to travel bans following the identification of the Omicron variant, it seems they are looking at domestic options in order to still enjoy a holiday during the festive season.
According to Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA), which represents the private sector, the only lifeblood of the local tourism and hospitality sector at the moment is domestic tourism. That is why SA Tourism Acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini encourages South Africans to continue with their plans to enjoy travelling within the country, while observing Covid-19 protocols.
Outbound searches for international flights on travel search site cheapflights.co.za dropped by about 46% over the weekend compared to the same period a week prior, following the latest announcements of new travel restrictions after South Africa identified the new Omicron variant.
Though domestic destinations are also seeing a drop of about 39%, they are currently topping the list of most searched destinations, namely Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and George, according to Cheapflights.
South African jet setters are swapping their usual skiing trips in the Alps or island holidays for fly-in safaris on their doorstep, according to Joe Cloete, CEO at Shamwari Private Game Reserve. There has been a noticeable increase in enquiries and parties chartering flights to visit the reserve. He says a number of premium game reserves are currently having good offers for local tourists.
Just how vital domestic travellers have become as a lifeline for the country's tourism industry shows in the about R237 million worth of December cancellations at tourism establishments having been reported after the variant was announced and countries started implementing bans on SA, according to Alderman James Vos, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth for the City of Cape Town.
"Our immediate priority is to preserve domestic tourism over the upcoming festive season to secure livelihoods. Local travellers make up the bulk of visitors to Cape Town and are a pillar of strength for our industry. We will be launching a domestic campaign, showcasing a pocket-friendly Cape Town to inspire South Africans and locals to get out and about," says Vos.
Marcel von Aulock, CEO of Tsogo Sun Hotels, says there has been the cancellation of a significant number of important corporate, sporting and cultural events as a result of the travel bans imposed on South Africa during the last week. These have resulted in a loss of much needed revenue that was contributing to the recovery of the already heavily damaged hospitality industry.
"The tourism infrastructure in South Africa has developed and implemented excellent protocols to allow safe experiences at our facilities. We are confident of offering local travellers a safe and relaxing environment for their December holidays and look forward to welcoming our international guests as soon as possible," says Von Aulock.
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