The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has reiterated its call for South Africa to remove the negative PCR test requirement for incoming travellers who are fully vaccinated to stimulate inbound tourism demand.
This follows news earlier this week that the Government of Botswana announced that fully vaccinated travellers would no longer be required to furnish a negative PCR test to enter the country, thus elevating the destination’s attractiveness for inbound international tourists.
Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the TBCSA, pointed out that several countries with a strong tourism value proposition had already done so. Further delays in following suit quickly were detrimental to the country positioning itself as travel ready and attractive.
“We have a very small window of opportunity as tourism destinations around the world like Australia reopen and others, like the United Kingdom, remove the negative PCR testing requirement for all inbound travellers.”
Tshivhengwa added: “Beyond the requirement being difficult and expensive for many of our international visitors, the World Health Organization has reiterated that international travellers should not be considered a priority group for PCR testing and that those who have been fully vaccinated should be exempt from heightened travel restrictions.”
As South Africa sees international travel returning to some level of normality, and acknowledging that for travel to happen, the destination needs to deliver ease of travel to incoming visitors, it is essential that South Africa follows suit and removes this requirement.
“Our tourism industry needs to get back to business and our people need to get back to work. Travellers are ready to visit and further contribute to our industry’s growth. However, the PCR test requirement is the biggest inhibitor,” Tshivhengwa emphasised.
Readers weigh in
The industry regularly contacts Tourism Update to lobby for the costly tests to be scrapped as they are a major barrier to travel.
Director of tourism marketing company, Talking Stick Global, Marc Reading, highlighted recently that a group of 25 adults arriving from the UK for a wedding earlier this month had to fork out over £2 000.
That money could have been spent at restaurants, attractions, tours etc. “As a travel professional I know for a fact that any country still testing is losing business. Clients don’t want the hassle,” he said.
He added that neighbouring countries in southern Africa needed to work together and make it easier for tourists to return.
“If clients are vaccinated or have done a PCR test before arrival it needs to be enough for them to visit other southern African countries. Most internationals visit a combination of countries on their long-haul destinations in Africa. We cannot expect clients to get four or five PCR tests if they visit SA, Botswana and Vic Falls on a trip to Southern Africa,” said Reading.
Samson Ronoh from Crossmed Aviation Clinic – which provides medical certification for pilots, student pilots and cabin crew – agreed, noting that the need for a PCR test defeats the purpose of vaccination. “The mildness of the Omicron variant means that we need new regulations for testing, isolation and mask wearing.”
Owner of Jensen Safaris, Holger Krogsgaard Jensen, said: “PCR testing is one thing, but if we could just get a situation where immunity and/or vaccination certificates would be accepted - that would be a good start.”
He said many infected guests stay positive for weeks after their recovery, and at the moment, such guests can only enter after applying in writing to the Department of Health