The Europa passenger liner’s docking on Tuesday in Cape Town was meant to be a ribbon-cutting event to mark the cruise ship season prelude in South Africa’s topmost tourist center, the first-ever since the ongoing pandemic hit. Stringent international travel curbs on southern Africa, where the Omicron variant had first been identified, have blown all hopes of an excellent tourist season.
The luxury liner is the first one to dock at Cape Town since the time South Africa had imposed a complete ban on cruise ships docking at local ports in 2020 March after the first wave of Covid-19 infection there. A succession of lockdown curbs has hit a local tourism sector that has heavily relied on foreign tourists as businesses shut their doors, shedding several thousand hospitality jobs.
Travel restrictions from the UK, the US, and European Union due to Omicron, a WHO-designated variant of concern, have witnessed the country’s three massive markets cut-off.
Owned by TUI Group, a travel company based in Germany, the ship carrying hundreds of crew members and passengers had set sail from Luderitz, Namibia toward Cape Town when the news of Omicron broke. The incident has raised the chances that the vessel would now have to be re-routed.
It was expected that the ship’s guests would have explored the top tourist attractions like Robben Island or Table Mountain. The ship was meant to be in the port up to 1 December before departing.
Summer is a vital time for Cape Town that had reportedly lost about 75,000 jobs in the tourism industry during the pandemic.