Satsa | TBCSA

Lifting South Africa from the UK ‘red list’ travel ban  

Regulatory and public affairs




During the pandemic, the UK government introduced strict border controls, including travel bans and hotel quarantine, to prevent the transmission of new Covid variants into the UK from so called “high risk countries". As a consequence of identifying both the Beta and Omicron variants, South Africa was twice placed on the UK’s “red list”. In both instances, Eterna Partners were retained by SATSA, and then the TBCSA, to lead the tourism industry's efforts to ensure the resumption of travel between the two countries.


Establish a “landing zone” for the UK government in which it could present a clear rationale for lifting the "red list" restrictions on South Africa, despite domestic political pressure to keep it in place. This was done by identifying and briefing politicians and media with declared interests in South Africa, building confidence in Southern Africa's infection control and vaccination programme, and creating a coalition of supportive voices.


Time sensitive objectives were set and delivered:

  • Red list 1 by October 2021 (announced 7 October)
  • Red list 2 by Christmas 2021 (announced 14 December)

SATSA and the TBCSA became high profile spokespeople, creating a deep understanding of the importance of tourism and a widespread acceptance that the Beta variant no longer posed a threat, leading to significant media coverage and political attention. The campaign forced the UK government to engage in high-level diplomacy and bilateral engagement to align the countries' views.