Angela Matthews, Owner and Director of Alpha Destinations, writes:
“Over the last weeks and months, I have been following the conversations [on vaccinations] on WhatsApp groups, Tourism Update, SATSA discourse, etc. with great interest. This interest is merging more and more into surprise, disbelief, and increasingly, frustration.
My understanding was, since we all rallied together last year (remember when we were forming human chains in Sandton to create awareness of the decimated tourism sector?), that we were pursuing a common goal, pushing our government to come up with a plan, hoping for a solution that would allow us to kick start our businesses.
Now there is a solution. The vaccine works, numbers speak for themselves. And our government (albeit after a dismal start) is making it available to everybody. I do not say it’s the perfect solution, it is certainly not 100% (there won’t ever be one that is 100%), but at this stage, it’s our only feasible and available solution. It is working rather well in large parts of Europe, where vaccinated people can travel freely, without costly PCR tests. You show your digital vaccine passport, and off you go.
Isn’t this what we should be striving for in our part of the world? Visitors moving between South Africa and the neighbouring countries without stressing about getting tested and receiving the results on time for various legs of the trip. Also, these tests are also extremely costly – especially where multiple tests are required for a single multi-country vacation. Don’t we all want to focus again on curating the perfect itinerary, not the itinerary that best accommodates the necessary PCR tests?
Sure, there are many governments still with completely illogical (read: political) restrictions, UK and US to name two, but there are many important markets of ours that are opening up rapidly. All (yes, every single one, 100%!) my clients are telling me that they had the vaccine, not only because they believe it will protect their health, but also because they finally want to travel again – without restrictions. Close to 50% of them have confirmed that they will travel as soon as they are exempt from PCR tests.
Why are so many of my colleagues rejecting vaccine passports? What is the alternative? South Africa’s government under Thabo Mbeki made the monumental mistake of rejecting antiretroviral drugs, with our then health minister famously declaring that all it took was some beetroot and garlic to fight the virus.
Are we seriously going to repeat this mistake and try and tell the world that South Africa does not need vaccines, that we will fight the virus with other methods, that we already have enough natural immunity in the population? That this makes us a safe travel destination? It is very possible that in the near future science will come up with alternatives to the vaccine, to control the spread of the virus. But until then, our only way out of the current misery is the vaccine, and the global vaccine passports. We need to work with the world the way it is, not the world we would like it to be."
Tourism Update encourages readers to weigh in on this in a constructive and professional way. You can also email us directly: email@example.com