Appeal for taking a “risk-based and scientific approach” to travel bans to Southern Africa with consideration of the devastating human implications following the announcement of the B.1.1.529 variant of COVID-19.

Africa’s Eden Tourism Association is a private sector, membership based organisation representing the tourism ecosystem in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
We are appealing to all governments who have imposed an immediate travel ban to consider the science regarding the new variant and to understand the cost of travel bans on the communities, conservation and economic recovery.

The World Health Organisation has cautioned against implementing travel barriers, calling for further research into the new variant. In an interview with World Health Organisation’s special envoy for COVID-19, David Nabarro stated that travel bans will most likely not stop the spread of the new variant and expressed dismay of the penalisation of Southern Africa for their transparency and rapid reporting. The WHO has gone further to say that travel bans have in the past not prevented the spread of variants and the best defence remains vaccination coupled with preventative measures and test and tracing.

The people of Southern Africa have been devastated by the announcement of not only the UK, but a list of countries including USA, Japan, Singapore, and members of the European Union to impose immediate travel bans to the region. This is a knee-jerk reaction. We implore governments to engage in consultation prior to making these decisions, with international organisations such as the WHO, and the leaders of those countries affected by the ban.

The Southern African region has been economically destroyed by the Covid 19 pandemic. The tourism industry, a primary generator of GDP and long term sustainability in the region has been especially hard hit. Tourism employed over 850,600 people in 2019 (WTTC, Economic Impact Report 2019) a figure since reduced by two thirds. For the first time since 2019, tourism facilities had reported significant occupancies and a positive forward booking outlook for 2022. The return to optimistic productivity was reversed in an instant on Friday 26th November 2021, and the full impact of this is yet to be determined.

We implore the global community to review their travel bans to the region with a focus on the human impact. Not only is the tourism economy deeply affected by the ban, leading to job losses and an impact on the socio-economic well-being of the region, but further longer-term implications such as conservation and biodiversity of the region is at stake – which will ultimately have an impact on global climate change. The region is home to one of the largest populations of african elephant, rhino, lion, wild dog and other red-list species as well as host to multiple UNESCO world heritage sites and one of the seven wonder’s, The Victoria Falls. In addition, the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), the largest transfrontier conservation area in the world, is at risk. Preservation of this vulnerable and unique natural

environment is primarily funded through tourism contribution, and continued travel bans will impact continued efforts to ensure the protection of these resources.

In most parts of the world people are looking forward to the holidays and finally after over two seasons of separation, families and friends could be reunited. The Southern African diaspora, most of whom have been double vaccinated, were looking forward to the fundamental right to meet and reunite with loved ones.

Africa’s Eden would like to praise organisations and countries that have heeded on science and cautious understanding towards the new variant by not imposing immediate bans. We would also like to praise and continue our partnership with the airlines that have assisted with repatriation and no penalty changes or refunds for travellers.

We look forward to welcoming you to Africa’s Eden once again. End –

Jillian Blackbeard
CEO – Africa’s Eden Tourism Association