- SA Tourism and the Tourism Business Council of SA are launching a global public relations campaign to reposition the country as a Covid-19 safe destination.
- They say damaging references to a variant first identified in SA, are harming the country's tourism image.
- The new tourism advocacy programme is part of the official recovery plan for the local industry.
In an attempt to dispel "damaging narratives" currently associated with South Africa, SA Tourism and the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) plan to launch a global public relations campaign to reposition the country as a Covid-19-safe destination.
The campaign will involve lobbying among airlines, tour operators and potential investors to convince them that South Africa is safe and has solid protocols and compliance processes in place to combat Covid-19. There will also be engagement with global media to "correct" the current perception of South Africa.
A new Covid-19 variant was detected in South Africa in December 2020. Concerns were raised that this variant could be able to spread more rapidly and that vaccines might not be as effective against it. As a result, many countries, including key source markets for the local tourism industry like the UK and UAE, put SA on a so-called red list.
This meant much stricter rules for travel from SA to those countries, and could even only allow citizens or residents of those countries to do so. This was a severe blow for the SA tourism industry, which hoped for international tourists to return after the country's borders re-opened.
"In March 2020, the world went into a global travel shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, there has been a gradual isolation of South Africa from a travel standpoint," SA Tourism said.
"Like most major tourism destinations, SA has also had adverse perceptions pertaining to safety and security, visa issuance and direct airlift, but the destination's allure overshadowed these as evidenced by the increasing tourism arrivals year-on-year," it added.
The advocacy programme will also highlight innovation which took place in the local tourism industry during the pandemic. These include new experiences and products that were developed.