The travel industry is changing fast as governments and tourism bodies across the world try to keep up with the latest developments in our fight against COVID-19.
Some vaccines have been approved and countries like Mauritius are rolling out campaigns to allow for vaccinated tourists to be granted instant access to the country, while non-vaccinated visitors will be required to undergo the standard 14-day quarantine period.
With the pandemic racking up deaths and placing medical facilities under immense pressure everywhere in the world, many experts foresee that ‘vaccinated travel’ or a ‘vaccine passport’ will become widely implemented to curb the spread of the virus.
‘The travel industry is already referring to future international travellers only wanting to visit countries that have a high level of vaccine roll-out, as well as a “Vaccine Passport” for travellers,’ said Rosemary Anderson, the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA) National Chairperson.
Many tour operators agree and feel that travellers should see the COVID-19 vaccine just like any of the hundreds of vaccines required to enter many countries.
‘Our belief is that the Covid-19 vaccine will quickly be adopted by governments across Africa and the world, as a pre-requirement for travel, much like the yellow fever vaccine is a requirement for travel in much of East Africa,’ said David Ryan, CEO of safari operator Rhino Africa. ‘The rollout of a vaccine, and subsequent decrease in both Covid-19 infections and deaths will be a critical component in marketing both South Africa and Southern Africa as a safe destination.’
However, the availability of the vaccine in a country might not be the only measure which has an impact on travellers’ decision to visit our shores.
David Frost, CEO Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) said: ‘We see very short lead times from booking to travel because of the fluidity of the situation globally so measures like flexible booking and cancellation policies are important for inbound international travellers, along with the stringent adherence to protocols.
‘Our beleaguered industry is going to have to work very collaboratively, in an environment free of unnecessary red tape, to ensure that it recovers from the devastating effect of COVID in the past year,’ Frost added.
Anderson (FEDHASA) added that many European countries, including South Africa’s key source markets, are extending their very strict lockdowns so it is likely the trend of very short booking cycles will continue. ‘[It is important] to ensure that as a destination and product we have flexible booking conditions so that travellers are able to change or cancel their reservations if in fact their travel plans are directly impacted by COVID-19,’ she said.
She said it is important to bring South Africa in line with other countries that have already started this process so the destination can be considered internationally viable.
“It is our view that travel will only return to some level of normality and by implication our tourism and hospitality sector can only begin its recovery when we start rolling-out the vaccine programme in South Africa in earnest. There simply is no other option but to fast track the vaccine programme,’ Anderson continued.
South Africa is expected to receive our first batch of the vaccine by the end of January or early February 2021.