June 2, 2023


Just Do Travel

Omicron variant causes financial woes for recovering travel agencies

Tourism in South Africa and neighboring countries is taking a downward turn after governments worldwide including the U.S. implemented travel restrictions.

SAN ANTONIO — Travel agencies on the road to rebounding from the pandemic have been hit with another financial blow as the omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads around the world.

The omicron “variant of concern” has spread to more than 20 countries.

Researchers in South Africa first reported cases last week over the Thanksgiving holiday.

A slew of travel bans from governments followed the news of coronavirus’ latest variant in southern Africa.

Dutch scientists have since learned the omicron variant was spreading in western Europe 11 days before the first indication of cases in South Africa.

Deon Barnard, CEO of Go Touch Down Travel and Tours, is familiar with the difficulties faced by travel advisory restrictions since he has family in South Africa.

He wonders why a cluster of African countries were slapped with travel bans by the U.S. while European countries reporting omicron cases are left untouched by such restrictions.

But, he hopes solutions arrive soon to ensure his business, which specializes in South Africa adventures, can continue without further interruptions.

“We cannot afford borders to close and tourism to stop,” Barnard said. “Some of the most memorable memories in life are created when loved ones spend time with each other.”  

Barnard said Go Touch Down has received dozens upon dozens of queries in light of the omicron news. Weary clients have resulted in delays and trip cancelations, which creates a downward economic spiral.

“When no one arrives, no one gets paid. We don’t get paid, the resorts don’t get paid, the guides don’t get paid. It’s devastating,” Barnard said.

Merlin Tchawa Yigma grew up in central Africa and operates a pharmacy in downtown Seguin.

He’s been busy administering at least a few thousand coronavirus vaccines since April.

He feels the implemented travel restrictions are vital.

“One thing with this coronavirus is that it’s spreading really fast and it’s a big concern for African nation in general,” Tchawa Yigma said. “It’s unfortunate that we have a travel ban because it limits the movement of people from region to another but at one point, I think it’s necessary to control that spread.”