UK travel ‘red list’ decision a blow to tourism recovery in the Western Cape | Western Cape Government


UK travel ‘red list’ decision a blow to tourism recovery in the Western Cape

20 September 2021

The United Kingdom (UK) is a key source market for tourism, trade and investment and so the continued restriction on travel via the “red list” is having a negative impact on economic recovery in the Western Cape.   

There are several inconsistencies is the methodology used to determine which countries end up on the “red list” produced by the UK:

  • South Africa’s proportion of fully vaccinated population is 8 times higher than that of Kenya, and 3 times higher than that of Egypt, and yet South Africa remains on the ‘red list’, while both Egypt and Kenya will be moved off the ‘red list’ from 22 September 2021; and
  • South Africa’s new positive cases relative to population size recorded in Turkey over the last seven days was approximately 4.7 times more than what was recorded in South Africa, and in the case of the Maldives, there were 2.25 times more new cases recorded over the last seven days in comparison to South Africa, and  yet South Africa remains on the ‘red list’, while both Turkey and Maldives will be moved off the ‘red list’ from 22 September 2021.     

The fact is that keeping South Africa on the ‘red list’ is unnecessarily impeding our economy recovery, especially in the tourism and hospitality sectors. 

The UK is the single biggest overseas country source market for tourists into South Africa with some 440,000 visitors travelling to South Africa in 2019. Furthermore, the UK is the Western Cape’s biggest source market, accounting for almost 15% foreign tourists visiting the province.   

An estimated 28% of those visited friends and family, highlighting that this is not only about holidays but also about the separation of families and loved ones. In 2020, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, only 132 000 visitors arrived from the UK in South Africa.  

The tourism sector generated R15,5 billion in gross value add and supported 174 982 jobs in 2019 in the Western Cape. But the sector has been hard hit and, while the Western Cape maintains the lowest unemployment rate in South Africa, the tourism sector is estimated to have lost 75 477 jobs in 2020. Easing travel restrictions for those travelling between the two countries ahead of our summer season will provide much-needed relief for the tourism and hospitality sector in the Western Cape.

Furthermore, the UK is also the Western Cape’s second largest export market, which was valued at R12.3 billion in 2020, while imports from the UK into Western Cape amounted to R3.9 billion in 2020. And so, keeping South Africa on the UK’s ‘red list’ for an extended period of time will likely also have a negative impact on trade and investment, particularly in relation to expanding existing investment and stimulating the entry of new UK investors into South Africa.  

I’d like to extend our support to all those, such as the South African Tourism Service Association (SATSA), who have mounted a comprehensive campaign for South Africa’s removal from the UK’s ‘red list’, and we will continue to add our voice to the growing call for the UK government to urgently remove South Africa from the ‘red list’ as this will go a long way to supporting our economy recovery in the Western Cape.  

Cape Town and the Western Cape is travel safe and we look forward to welcoming visitors from the UK to experience the diverse and affordable attractions we have to offer. 

For ideas on your next trips to the Western Cape, visit

Media Enquiries: 

Media Queries:

Francine Higham

Spokesperson for the Provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities

(Responsible for the Provincial Treasury and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism)

Cell: 071 087 5150