With much of South Africa’s outbound travel focused on African destinations, the recent Ebola outbreak has raised some concerns among business travellers preparing to do business within the continent.
The 2014 outbreak is one of the largest in history and currently affects several countries in West Africa, including Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
So severe is this particular outbreak, that several airlines have cancelled their outbound flights to affected destination, while countries like Kenya and Botswana are on high alert and have instituted measures to secure their borders against the threat of the Ebola spread. Corporate travel is largely being suspended or delayed, unless essential.
The South African government for its part has taken measures to enhance surveillance, distribute guidelines to all hospitals, designate health facilities for the treatment of Ebola patients, deployed personal protective equipment to designated facilities, conducted training, activated outbreak response teams and is operating a hotline for clinicians through the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Countries have been divided into three risk categories with measures such as travel bans for all non-citizens from high-risk countries or strict screening process for South African citizens returning from these countries. See this update for full details. ACSA has also released standard operating procedures, that you can read here.
The situation is evolving quickly and ASATA will continue to monitor it in detail so as to ensure our members are kept informed on the latest educated advice.
The World Health Organization recommends that all contact be avoided with Ebola patients and their bodily fluid. Do not touch anything, such as shared towels, which could have become contaminated in a public place.
Symptoms of the disease include the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. The incubation period, i.e. the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is two to 21 days.
- Ebola outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%
- Outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests
- The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads through human-to-human transmission
- No licenced specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals
Association of Southern African Travel Agents’ response to joint statement by the Department of Home Affairs and Department of Tourism
It is with growing concern that ASATA took note of the recently released joint press statement that was issued 31 July by the Ministers of Tourism and Home Affairs, confirming an implementation date of 1 October, despite acknowledging short falls in the ability of Home Affairs to meet their own objectives regarding various amendments to the Immigration Act.
On behalf of its members and South African travellers, who are now required to apply for unabridged birth certificates to travel internationally with their children under the age of 18, ASATA has repeatedly asked Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to consider a 12-month deferment of the implantation date and to meet with industry bodies to discuss the impact that this will have on our sectors.
A letter, signed by five of the countries top travel industry leaders, highlighting the concerns of the travel industry and the impact the new ruling would have, was also sent to Minister Gigaba 10 days ago. We have not received acknowledgement of receipt nor our request to meet. Furthermore, a request for assistance in clarifying some of the concerns raised, e.g. “travellers departing before the end of September but arriving back after the 1 October will they (the child) require an unabridged birth certificate?” has been sent to relevant Home Affairs representatives three weeks ago, to which we have yet to receive a response.
Although the Department of Home Affairs has stated a turn-around time of four to eight weeks to issue a new unabridged birth certificate, practice suggests these timelines are closer to between four and six months, depending on which Home Affairs office to apply too.
This and the lack of a clear communication has created a lot of confusion in our industry and for our clients, who are turning to us to assist in providing clarity.
While we stand behind any efforts to secure our borders and to protect our children in all instances, we have yet to see what research has informed government to introduce a requirement to carry an unabridged birth certificate as an additional travel document. Our extensive research has shown that no other country in the world has implemented a similar requirement.
In light of this, we question the effectiveness of this new requirement in meeting the Home Affairs’ objective to reduce child trafficking. A birth certificate is not a recognised travel document anywhere in the world; passports and visa’s serve that purpose, with the necessary process behind acquiring one to ensure that it is fit for that purpose.
Please let us be sure that the policies in place serve that purpose and do not have undue consequences.
Furthermore, we must ask that such an onerous new administrative regulation have an appropriate lead in time and a structured and collective consultative process with the travel and airline industries to avoid the inevitable confusion the premature implementation of said new rules will cause to the travelling public and our industry at large.
We therefore re-assert our call for a 12-month grace period in order to ensure minimal short-term disruption to our industry whilst maintaining the Department of Home Affairs objectives.
This is just a heads up….
Africa Day is on Friday 25th of May 2012 which means a public holiday in some countries. Angola and Nigeria have informed us that their Embassy’s will be closed and no documents processed.
Keep it in mind and tell your clients
I heard recently of a senior travel consultant leaving her current position to start her own travel company and on her last day wrote a very endearing letter to her employer’s client base to advise them of her new business adventure and all the good reasons why they should move their commerce to her.
Now why is this not okay?
Firstly, her letter of employment has a clause that explicitly covers the petitioning of her employers clients, but more importantly because it is such an unethical act!
A data base of any proportion takes time, technology and tenacity and whilst it may be available to employees to access for work related business it is proprietary information and should be treated as such. The Consumer Protection Act covers the consumer’s right to privacy and clearly an act of this nature invades this basic consumer right. In addition, the consumer has the right to choose and they have clearly made their choice.
Data base management companies place a sizable price tag to their product and for good reason, so however great the temptation is to solicit names without permission, remember its wrong!
Jet Airways sent a notification to the trade on Monday the 7th of May, 2012 advising that they shall be terminating the Mumbai to Johannesburg route with effect from the 12th of June, 2012.
Whilst we are hearing of a myriad of reasons as to their decision we have had no formal notification as yet.
ASATA has made contact with Rogers Aviation, the General Sales Agent for Jet Airways, who advised that they too are awaiting further instructions with respect to the re-protection of alternative services.
It is obviously more preferred that passengers are provided with alternative flights as opposed to refunds, which inevitably may not cover the cost of a new booking.
In addition, we have made contact with IATA who acknowledge the termination of this route but who also confirmed that Jet Airways remain a participant of the South African Billing and Settlement Plan.
We will keep you posted of any further developments.