South Africa travel agency group joins with ASTA to protest border closures

ASTA was joined Friday by its global peers, including the Association of South African Travel Agencies, in again calling on governments around the world to lift country- and region-specific travel bans.

“Recent and more stringent border closures have severely impacted already complex international travel,” the associations said in a statement, adding that new border measures have had “significant economic impacts on travel and tourism businesses that may not add additional community protection.”

In recent weeks, the U.S. and a number of other countries have imposed various travel restrictions on countries in southern Africa, where the omicron variant of Covid-19 was first discovered. But since South Africa’s announcement of a new variant, it has been detected in multiple countries, many times arriving and spreading before border controls had taken place.

Border closures and other restrictions were quickly panned by both travel industry leaders and the World Health Organization.

ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby was one of six signatories on a statement reiterating an anti-border-closure stance. He was joined by South African Travel Agencies CEO Otto de Vries; Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies; Lars Thykier, president of the World Travel Agents Associations Alliance; Eric Dresin, secretary general of the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association; and Vanessa Ledesma-Berrios, acting CEO and director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.

“It is critical that government policy is guided by science, not political pressure or the desire to be seen as ‘doing something’ since these measures have significant, sometimes irreversible impact on businesses and jobs,” the associations said.

Governments, they said, should prioritize vaccine distribution and support freedom of movement with measures like masking, sanitation, testing and vaccination proof. Government leaders should also provide financial support for travel-reliant businesses, they added.

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