South Africa ready for bookings bonanza
by Steve Hartridge
South Africa removed its final COVID-19 restrictions this week, marking what the country's tourism minister called "the return to life as we knew it before COVID-19".
There are now no testing requirements to visit South Africa for vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers, face masks are no longer required indoors or in public settings, and there are no limits on gatherings - measures that will go a long way in boosting the tourism sector's growth, said Lindiwe Sisulu.
“Travellers are now able to participate in more activities, including attending big events and gatherings that not only contribute to our country's appeal but also to our economy,” she said.
Kgomotso Ramothea, Acting Hub Head UK & Ireland, South African Tourism added: “We are delighted with this news. Visitor numbers to South Africa from the UK and Ireland have been steadily increasing since removal of the red list restrictions.
"The end of COVID-19 measures, coupled with increased capacity from Virgin Atlantic this will give tourism the boost it needs to reach, or even exceed the record numbers experienced in 2019.”
Virgin will recommence its daily winter service to Cape Town on November 5 and also flies daily from London-Heathrow to Johannesburg.
An airline spokesman said: “We welcome the news that South Africa has removed all remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions. This is another positive step towards frictionless air travel for our customers.
"We know our customers love taking advantage of the winter sun, the safaris and the world-famous wine region. We can’t wait to seamlessly fly our customers to South Africa.”
Alison Butler, Explore’s Product Manager for Africa, commented: "We are delighted for our customers that travel to South Africa is free of Covid rules and regulation stress. The recent removal of restrictions in South Africa means our trips are once again relaxing and enjoyable experiences, as our customers can spend less time worrying about Covid process and procedures while on holiday."
South Africa has long been a favourite long haul choice for Riviera Travel customers, said Will Sarson, the company's Head of Strategy & Innovation, and this week's news will heighten both interest and bookings.
"We know how disappointed so many have been not to be able to visit over the last couple of years. The announcement of restrictions being eased will provide a huge boost to forward bookings, and in particular those looking to travel in the second half of 2022, who may have previously been on the fence," he said.
Kerry Golds, Chief Tour Operating Officer of A&K, commented: South Africa has always been a firm favourite with our clients – from Cape Town’s incredible foodie scene to the diverse landscapes and wildlife, there’s something for everyone. On the back of restrictions lifting our team have seen a steady growth in enquiries, especially for that key winter period later this year."
Nadja du Toit, Director of Operations for Africa at G Adventures, said the end of COVID restrictions in destinatuins immediately sees a spike in both customer confidence and bookings.
"South Africa will be no exception. This news [relaxation of the entry and COVID requirements] comes at a great time, as the UK summer time and Africa's winter time is the best time for game drives in the region. We've been operating tours in South Africa for four months now and have had great success and feedback from our clients. We're seeing lead times reduce as travellers are keen to lock in their adventure and hit the road as soon as possible."
"With many trips being heavily focused on outdoor pursuits and activities, guests feel comfortable mingling and enjoying a group dynamic. The reduction of mask wearing just enhances that experience with more personal interactions and easier conditions when in a hotter climate".
Simon Lynch, Global Director of Sales at Scott Dunn, claimed the company has already noticed a rise in consumer interest in South Africa.
"Our guests’ desire to embark on extra-special adventures and safaris to South Africa has never been stronger. South Africa is our most-booked tailormade destination in 2022 so far – proving popular for active and adventurous families with older kids," he said.
"We are confident that this removal of testing will only result in a further influx of enquires and bookings for South Africa."