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Omicron variant empties South African safari lodges

Operators of South Africa’s tourism industry fear missing business this festive season.

The latest travel ban imposed after the discovery of the Omicron variant will make it difficult for international tourists to visit the country if the rules are not changed.

The Khaya Ndlovu Manor House, is one of many high-end lodges near the famed Kruger National Park. Restaurant and safaris here were opened to everyone when Covid restrictions first eased.

Sales manager for Khaya Ndlovu Manor House, Shannon Maclean acknowledged the uncertainties travelers may be going through due to the pandemic. “It’s unsettling for travelers and I understand that completely but we were looking for a very good December with a lot of international guests. And obviously our guests don’t just support our business, they support lots of other businesses in this area and we don’t know really what’s gonna happen.”

After more than a year and a half of struggle, Sabine Stam owns Down to Africa Tour Company in South Africa. She was expecting to capitalize on the festive season to cash in on her lose from the previous year.

Her tour company was fully booked for the December peak season.

“It’s a tough, I think it’s quite a… kick in the nuts, if I can say it like that. And I think this is maybe the last sort of one for a lot of businesses. Last year it was easy for clients to postpone, because nobody really knew what was going on and everyone believed that next year it will be better… And this year they’ve already postponed once or twice and they say ‘no, please do cancellation’.” She said.

Before the pandemic, in 2019, tourism was 6.9 percent of South Africa’s economy.

Last year it jumped to 3.7 percent, as foreign arrivals dropped by 71 percent.

Hopes of a rebound this year seem dimmer now.


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