Southern Africa Airlines lobby AASA slams UK for Omnicon travel restrictions
The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA), has expressed concern over the decision by the United Kindom return South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini backto its “Red List” of countries which are subject to severe travel restrictions and quarantines.
“While we respect every nation’s sovereign right to implement whatever measures it sees fit to combat the spread of COVID-19 variants, we urge Whitehall to reconsider what appears to have been a hasty decision, given the paucity of detailed knowledge and information on the newly identified variant, its presence and the efficacy of vaccines in limiting its potential to cause serious illness,” AASA said in a statement.
“With its announcement, the UK is delivering a body-blow to our region’s travel and tourism sector. It puts businesses as well as tens of thousands of jobs and many more livelihoods at risk,” said AASA CEO, Aaron Munetsi.
Munetsi says the business and leisure air travel industry in Southern Africa had only started to see the beginnings of a recovery as governments begun to relax and simplify their travel requirements and procedures. ” The UK’s unilateral step is a major set-back that sets a worrying precedent,” he added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disarray to air travel and tourism worldwide. Southern Africa’s connectivity with the rest of the world fell by 80pc as a result of travel restrictions. Total domestic, regional and inter-continental demand has recovered to about 40pc of pre-COVID traffic levels by the start of November 2021 with domestic and regional traffic leading the comeback. Prior to the UK’s “Red List” announcement, long-haul traffic to and from Southern Africa was forecast to return to 2019 levels by 2025.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the commercial airline industry in South Africa supported close to 472,000 jobs across the economy and contributed $9.4 billion to the country’s economy. That equated to 3.2pc of GDP. The industry is also of strategic social and economic importance in all of the other countries in the Southern Africa Development Community.