The Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (Barsa) – which represents international and African airlines, airport operators and other stakeholders – told parliament’s portfolio committee on Tourism this week that the country needs a ‘coordinated, sensitive response’ when dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, or risk airlines “leaving” South Africa.
According to BusinessTech, the statement was made during a briefing this week, in which Barsa informed the committee that some airlines have reduced their capacity and frequency of flights to South Africa on account of uncertainty surrounding travel regulations in the country.
The statement comes after threats and denials by government officials that there will be a second hard lockdown on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to ravage the nation and the world.
The group added that some airlines have even threatened to leave South Africa and relocate their hubs to neighbouring countries, and that cargo flights alone are not enough to sustain current air routes.
22 countries still remain on the list of those which cannot travel to South Africa for leisure under the country’s current travel guidelines – Many of these, such as the US, UK and Germany, are key travel markets which fuel the local tourism industry.
Losing its strategic hubs would be a great risk for South Africa, reports BusinessTech, as the country currently acts as the gateway to the entire continent as well as Southern African Development Community countries.
Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said earlier in the week that government is hoping to open the country’s borders to all tourists by the December holidays. This, however, would depend on which way the currently precarious COVID-19 situation swings in the upcoming weeks.
“We do believe that we have a second chance to try and recover,” she said “and anything that can happen (with COVID-19 infections) can literally take us backwards.”