Uncertainty in the travel industry: Omikron makes travelers hesitate

Uncertainty in the travel industry
Omikron makes travelers hesitate

South Africa has been a virus variant area since Sunday, along with seven other countries in the region. After returning, this means: compulsory testing and two weeks of quarantine – also for vaccinated people. While the travel industry is showing reluctance to book, some countries are already closing themselves off.

The Omikron variant of the corona virus ensures stricter requirements for trips to South Africa worldwide and could hit the tourism industry, which is plagued by pandemics. The rapid increase in corona infections in Germany for weeks and the associated uncertainty among customers dampened bookings in November and made customers hesitate, explained the German Travel Association (DRV). However, it is still too early to make a valid statement about the reaction to Omikron.

Since Sunday, the popular winter travel destination South Africa has been classified as a virus variant area along with seven other countries in the region – this means mandatory testing and two weeks of quarantine, even for vaccinated people after their return. There was no immediate sign of a collapse in the number of bookings. Lufthansa kept its program with 17 weekly connections between Germany and South Africa. “And our flights are still well booked,” said a Lufthansa spokeswoman.

The second largest German travel group DER Touristik is now observing a certain reluctance after very positive bookings in autumn, also with tours in southern Africa. “It remains to be seen what significance the variant has,” said a spokeswoman.

South Africa is a small travel destination. Before the Corona crisis, the DRV counted 300,000 travelers out of a total of 55 million. According to the association, around 400 package holidaymakers, including customers of the Berlin travel agency Chamäleon, were recently on site during the main travel season just starting. Its boss Ingo Lies said that all of the more than 50 travelers had been brought back to Germany since Friday and that departures for southern Africa had been canceled until mid-January. “We have been active since Friday and the whole weekend to bring the Chameleon guests back quickly and safely.”

Australia postpones opening

The new Omikron variant is being proven in more and more countries. In this country there are so far three cases of those who have tested positive. The Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and the Czech Republic also discovered cases. Mostly they were travelers from South Africa or Namibia. Scotland found the first infections that were not directly related to travel. The states of the European Union, Great Britain and the United States tightened travel warnings towards southern Africa. Some countries closed themselves off completely – after Israel, which initially imposed a 14-day entry ban, also Japan and Australia.

The Australian government postponed the December 1 lifting of its entry ban for foreigners, which had been in force since May 2020, by two weeks after five cases of infection were found. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government needed time to examine the consequences of the Omicron variant. Australian vacationers canceled their trips to Africa because of the condition that they had to go to a quarantine hotel for three days until a negative test was found, according to the Flight Center Travel Group.

But the number is limited. The customers were still waiting. South Africa criticizes the entry bans issued in several European countries and the USA. These measures are of no help, says Health Minister Joe Phaahla at a press conference. The government will work to lift the restrictions.

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