The African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA) continues to use its position on key travel boards to put pressure on the UK government to use the correct scientific information to allow countries in Africa to move from red to amber to green.
This follows the launch of the framework for the safe return of international travel by British Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps. The framework included the introduction of a new traffic-light system (red, amber and green) for travel to the UK.
Currently, most sub-Saharan countries fall under the ‘red’ category.
In an opinion piece published by Tourism Update, ATTA President, Nigel Vere Nicoll, takes on the stigmatisation of Africa by foreign governments, highlighting that the narrative about Africa’s COVID-19 story – of limited testing capacity, poor health and under reporting, amongst others – does not fit the reality.
“The reality is the low numbers of deaths from COVID-19 across the 13 or so key safari destinations in sub-Saharan Africa. Just 70,000 deaths in a total population across those 13 countries of around 400 million (80% are in one country South Africa),” wrote Vere Nicoll.
CEO of ATTA, Chris Mears, highlighted that the association held weekly meetings within the two travel industry groups – Save Future Travel Coalition (SFTC) and the Travel Industry Alliance (TIA) – feeding into the UK’s Global Travel Task Force to continue to lobby the UK government.
The SFTC is a combination of 15 non-air associations that directly challenge members of government departments such as the Department for Transport, Public Health England and the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office etc. on behalf of inbound and outbound land travel operators, suppliers and services.
The TIA is a group of nine associations and is directly plugged into an All Party Parliamentary Group called The Future of Aviation, led by Henry Smith, MP for Crawley (where London Gatwick Airport is located). This group covers issues relating to inbound and outbound travel, land and air travel services.
According to Mears, ATTA continues to address the issues that directly affect its UK members, but with a knock-on effect to members in Africa. These interventions include:
- A push for transparent criteria and communications on the traffic-light list and ongoing monitoring.
- Addressing the ‘totally unacceptable’ cost of PCR tests and the push to get the UK government to accept a Lateral Flow test and then only if PCR negative.
- COVID vaccination certificates for travel.
- Continued financial support such as furlough, tax and VAT concessions until such time as UK travel businesses can achieve positive cash flow from bookings.
Despite SA having the highest COVID-19 cases in sub-Saharan Africa, the narrative is also skewed, says inbound industry association, SATSA, highlighting that South Africa is marking a significant shift in its fight against COVID.
“As a country that has long battled against diseases like HIV and tuberculosis, the latter being particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, South Africa already has robust systems in place to deal with COVID,” according to a recent SATSA letter.
SATSA also reiterated the strict health and hygiene protocols, both legislated and driven by industry through the Tourism Business Council of South Africa's Travel Safe Eat Safe programme.
It’s also worth reading the 10-page Position Paper by MD of Wild Wings Safaris, Onne Vegter, which provides detailed and evidence-based justification for why South Africa should be declared a safe destination to travel to.