No cruise ship cheers Cape Town tourism amid Omicron alarm
Band Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN, November 30 (Reuters) – The Europa liner’s docking in Cape Town on Tuesday was due to be a celebration marking the official start of the cruise season in South Africa’s main tourist hub, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic.
But international travel is holding back southern Africa, where the new Omicron Coronavirus variant has been identified for the first time, blowing expectations of a bumper tourist season out of the water.
the multi-stage, white luxury The liner is the first to dock in Cape Town since South Africa imposed a total ban on all cruise ships entering local ports in March 2020 after the first coronavirus infection in the country.
A succession of tough lockdown restrictions hammered a local tourism sector dependent on foreign tourists as businesses shuttered and cut thousands of hospitality jobs.
Now travel restrictions Imposed by the European Union, Britain and The union states because of Omicron, designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization, saw the three largest markets to cut.
Owned by the German travel company TUI Group TUIGN.DEthe ship carrying hundreds of passengers and crew was sailing from Luderitz in Namibia to Cape Town when news of Omicron broke and raised the possibility that the ship could be rerouted.
“Some passengers (will disembark) to return home, while others will remain on board for the return journey,” said Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro, the Western Cape province’s trade and investment agency. .
“Passengers going to the airport will be required to take a PCR (COVID-19) test before leaving,” she told Reuters without providing details on the number of passengers or nationality.
About 157 passengers, who disembarked in small batches, will be processed by immigration authorities until Thursday according to their flight schedules, another official said. There will be no crew change.
Petra Ruester, who flew to Cape Town from her native Germany last week, waved on the dock at her parents aboard the Europa who will no longer be able to join her ashore to celebrate her birthday on Wednesday.
“My dad is very sad… It’s a little disappointing but we’re going to celebrate with friends,” Ruester said, adding that she’s been in constant contact with her parents via WhatsApp.
Ruester said she expected to have to quarantine for 14 days when she returned to Germany on December 4.
The passengers has beenexpected atvisit attractions such as Table Mountain or the apartheid-era prison Robben Island, where former President Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.
The ship was originally scheduled to stay in port until December 2 but will now depart a day later as passengers are tested at a state-run lab in the cruise terminal.
“This has been a hammer blow to our main job-creating sector in the province, precisely when we needed a recovery, to recover the jobs lost over the past 19 months,” said Alan Winde, Premier of the Western Cape Province.
The summer season is vital for Cape Town, which has lost around 75,000 tourism jobs in the pandemic, officials said.
(Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, William Maclean and Gareth Jones)
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