By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Airline operator Comair says it is temporarily suspending all scheduled kulula.com and British Airways flights for three weeks.
This follows the announcement by president Cyril Ramaphosa of a move to an adjusted Level 4 lockdown and the prohibition on all non-essential travel in and out of Gauteng, it said.
The decision was taken "in light of the prohibition on leisure travel to and from Gauteng, very little business and leisure travel elsewhere in the country, and no connecting traffic from an international carrier," it said.
Flights will be suspended from Monday 5 July and Comair aims to recommence services from 30 July subject to regulations being eased and Covid-19 infection rates, particularly in Gauteng, being contained.
Kulula.com customers who hold a valid ticket booked for travel between 28 June 2021 and 29 July 2021 will be able to use their ticket within twelve months from the first date of travel, without any penalty.
No change of booking fee or fare difference will be charged. The British Airways 'Book with Confidence' policy will apply to all customers holding a valid ticket with British Airways operated by Comair, it said.
Comair’s announcement follows other high-profile shut-downs due to the latest lockdown.
Sun International announced earlier this week that all but two of its hotels and resorts would close during the two-week level 4 lockdown period.
While hotels and similar facilities are still able to operate under the level 4 restrictions announced by the president on Sunday, the closure of casinos, restaurants, and alcohol sales under the regulations will make it difficult for many places to keep operating.
Graham Wood, group chief operating officer for hospitality at Sun International said that the restrictions on Gauteng in particular – with a ban of travel in and out of the province – exacerbates the issue.
While the current plan is to keep these sectors closed for a period in line with the lockdown dates, there is no certainty that the lockdown will be lifted on 11 July.
Meanwhile the crash in international tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic could cause a loss of more than $4 trillion to the global GDP for the years 2020 and 2021, says the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).
In a report published this week, the agency said that the world is unlikely to reach pre-Covid-19 international tourist arrival levels until 2023 or later.
Much of the tourism sector’s recovery will largely depend on the uptake of Covid-19 vaccines globally, with developing countries with slow rollouts such as South Africa expected to see prolonged tourism losses.
"Covid-19 vaccination rates are uneven across countries, ranging from below 1% of the population in some countries to above 60% in others," Unctad said.
"The asymmetric roll-out of vaccines magnifies the economic blow tourism has suffered in developing countries, as they could account for up to 60% of the global GDP losses."
By comparison, the tourism sector is expected to recover faster in countries with high vaccination rates, such as France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.