The Effect of COVID – 19 on African Tourism

By Dilyara Shantayeva – Art in Tanzania internship

Tourism is an important economic sector for Africa. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Africa received 71.2 million international arrivals in 2019 amounting to about US$ 40 billion in revenue. This represents a 4 percent growth in arrivals over that of the previous year. Tourism has witnessed sustained growth on the continent as governments continued to pursue it as a viable economic option due to its contribution in terms of jobs, revenue, foreign exchange, and infrastructure.

Africa is increasingly becoming a preferred destination for many international tourists looking to enjoy its sunny beaches, ecotourism products, national parks and safaris and exotic culture and food. Unfortunately, the projected growth of between 3 to 5% in international arrivals for the continent cannot be realised: like every continent, Africa’s tourism industry is shattered, and the inflow of the tourist dollar has ceased due to the impact of COVID-19. The highly contagious spread of the coronavirus ultimately stopped most of the traveling to many touristic destinations is still causing many discrepancies these days as well. This article will overview the main effects of COVID – 19 on African tourism.

“We live in very challenging and uncharted waters at the moment,” says Nigel Vere Nicoll, President of the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA), an organization which he founded 25 years ago. ATTA has around 700 members in Sub-Saharan Africa, split relatively evenly between buyers – such as tour operators – and suppliers (hotels, lodges, and transportation companies). In the interview with the journalist from the Africa Outlook, he mentioned that one of the biggest problems currently facing the industry is confusion over cancelled bookings. Travellers who’ve already booked the tours and tickets and the situation have changed very rapidly, they have loads of questions concerning refunds, re-bookings, and other related issues.

He also mentioned the economic issues that Africa had encountered during the pandemics: “Take one small boutique lodge in Africa with, say, 10 rooms,” he says. “They would employ about 50 people, but their extended suppliers – so, the person who does the laundry, or brings in the eggs every day – probably equates to around 1,000 extra people. If that lodge packs up, then 1,000 people have no income.”

There are also other, less obvious effect: In Kenya, for example, many conservancies have been established on land belonging to the Masai Mara peoples. They remove their grazing cattle from the land and lease it to organisations building safari lodges that conserve it for wildlife, the revenue from tourists providing an income to the Masai people.

“That model works fine until there’s a nonessential travel warning, and then no money is coming in and they can’t pay the Masai,” Vere Nicoll adds. “One my closest friends has just been to see one of the chiefs and explained the situation, telling him ‘we’re going to go on paying you out of reserve funds, but we don’t know how long this is sustainable for.’

“If this goes on for a long time, all this work on conservancies will be put in jeopardy, because if the Masai don’t get revenue then their livelihood is at stake.”

So, what is the solution? How can the African tourism industry keep going?

Vere Nicoll believes the answer lies in domestic tourism. As there are such low levels of COVID-19 within many African countries now, travel is still possible.

“It’s not possible to cross borders within Africa, because they all have the same warning on, but it is possible to create domestic tourism,” he explains. “In fact, this is an amazing opportunity to create cashflow for survival with the local market. Kenya, for example, has a huge number of Europeans living within the country, who could become domestic tourists.”

Another saving grace is that it’s currently low season in East Africa, so tourism companies and hotels in that area anticipate having fewer customers this time of year. Some smaller safari lodges are even closed, ready to reopen for summer’s high season.

“What we are hoping is that tourism will recover in the English autumn, and they’ll have the chance to get some bookings in the late season, leading up until Christmas,” Vere Nicoll says. “If it lasts any longer, we’re in a totally different ball game.”

However, he concludes our conversation on a note of optimism. “The bottom line is that the tourism industry is very resilient. It always has been. We’ve been through many problems over the years, especially in eastern and southern Africa, and we’ve always come through in the end.

“I think the industry will come out of it much stronger. A lot of relationships will be built up. And I think that once the coronavirus goes, if it’s a short-term thing, then the industry will bounce back tremendously.”

In general, the tourism industry has been heavily impacted by the pandemic as people’s economic lives are halted and their freedom of movement curtailed. Chiefly among these impacts on African economies is the reduction in foreign income. With the closure of the world economy and the associated redundancy as well as closure of international borders, international tourist inflows into Africa have ceased.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) indicates that international tourist arrivals to Africa decreased by 35% between January to April 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Countries such as Gambia, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, and a host of others that are heavily dependent on the expenditure of international tourists have witnessed dwindled injections of tourism-based foreign income. Equally, and associated with this, is the closure of tourism businesses. Tourism businesses are forced to close either because of internal measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus or directly because of the absence of tourists.

Either way, the closure of tourism businesses such as hotels, attractions, travel and tour operations, food and beverage services, and other support businesses have resulted in massive job losses across the tourism industry in Africa. Both direct jobs that are primarily targeted at serving tourists and those in the value chain have all been impacted.

Ultimately, the closure of tourism businesses coupled with massive job losses have resulted in the reduction of corporate and individual income tax revenue to African governments and thereby affected their abilities to provide the required public services and infrastructure. Such tourism-dependent African economies are therefore compelled to increase their borrowing, thereby spiraling their debt burden and potentially perpetuating their poverty cycle. For instance, South Africa, a country with a significant tourism sector, for the first time in its history took a loan of US$ 4.3 billion from the IMF. Interestingly, this amount is less than its annual foreign income from the tourism industry.

Similarly, countries like Ghana that has tourism as its fourth foreign income earner, contributing more than over US$ 1 billion a year, have contracted a US$ 1 billion loan facility from the IMF. This has become an all too familiar story across the continent with many African countries with significant tourism industries losing out on tourist dollars.

While tourist dollars have stopped flowing to the continent, for the time being, there is hope, with the UNWTO indicating that confidence in recovery in Africa remains very strong compared to other world regions.

To achieve this, there is the need for the gradual easing of lockdown measures, including the opening of international borders, to allow the inflow of international tourists. Also, African governments should institute safety protocols to guarantee the safety of both tourists and employees at the ports of entry into individual countries, and at tourism facilities and attractions. And African governments through their national tourism organizations can begin to bundle their tourism products to reduce the cost of travel.

The bundling can be done to cut profit margins on individual tourism elements and therefore reduce the overall cost. This will also have the advantage of compelling tourists to visit many attractions and stay longer and thereby spend more at destinations. Tourism facilities can also offer discounts or complementary services to entice customers, especially domestic tourists at the initial stages of re-opening.

Further, there should be aggressive marketing of African destinations in international circles to re-assure Western and, to some extent, Chinese tourists about visiting Africa once more. Lastly, African governments can offer tax exemptions and holidays to tourism businesses to help them recover from the consequences of the pandemic. Such tax holidays and exemptions will help them grow back their earnings into their businesses to recover and grow in the short term.

Impact of domestic tourism as a strategy to the recovery of tourism activities from COVID-19

Written by Daniel Christopher Mkilanya – Art in Tanzania internship

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic there isn’t one industry unaffected, and tourism is no exception. From canceled weddings and festivals to less dining out, the world has taken a hit from the large decline in tourism. The U.S. alone has seen more than $297 billion in losses from the decrease in travel since the beginning of March 2020.

However, as the summer months push on and people look for any excuse to leave their houses, tourism is making a comeback – for better or worse. The tourism industry is undoubtedly changing, but people still want to travel. And tourism research is seeing that wanderlust desire. We need to remain mindful of the millions of people who work in the tourism industry and understand that changes in the industry directly affect individuals who depend on tourism.” For us to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry first we have to know what the coronavirus is and how is it spreads from one person to another

Flu coronavirus pandemic virus infection, travel and health concept. Medical stethoscope and travel documents on wood background. 3d illustration

1. What is a corona virus?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered type of coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illnesses. The best way to prevent andslow down transmission is to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes,and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently and not touching your face.

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

2. How coronavirus has affected the tourism industry

Failure of tourism business

It is often that tourism companies suffer in times of hardship, The independent travel agent in Arusha, the street seller in Zanzibar, the taxi driver in our airports. If there are no tourists, there is no business.

I have met many local workers on my travels during the Coronavirus outbreak. The effect of Coronavirus on tourism is most certainly evident in Tanzania. Many tourists have paid half the usual price for hotels and also many tourist attractions are without the crowds.

Whilst this has been good for tourists, it has been desperation for the local business people; the man who wants to sell ice cream, the lady who offers a ride home and the family-run restaurant business. Coronavirus has gone far by affecting large tourism business as a well. We have recently seen collapse of airline companies as a result of the reduction in tourism.

Restriction in traveling

Due to the increase in the number of victims, different countries have decided to impose traveling restriction as one of the ways of preventing further spread off coronavirus but also the general public is scared that they may transmit the virus to their elderly or immune- compromised friends and relatives.

As a result, many people are choosing not to travel. It’s a effective way to prevent further spread of coronavirus but for the traveling business it’s a great loss.

2. How the Domestic tourism will recover?

UN World Tourism Organization UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “UNWTO expects domestic tourism to return faster and stronger than international travel. Given the size of domestic tourism, this will help many destinations recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, while at the same time safeguarding jobs, protecting livelihoods and allowing the social benefits tourism offers to also return.”

The briefing note also shows that, in most destinations, domestic tourism generates higher revenues than international tourism. In OECD nations, domestic tourism accounts for 75%of total tourism expenditure, while in the European Union, domestic tourism expenditure is 1.8 times higher than inbound tourism expenditure. Globally, the largest domestic tourism markets in terms of expenditure is the United States with nearly US$ 1 trillion, Germany with US$ 249 billion, Japan US$ 201 billion, the United Kingdom with US$ 154 billion, and Mexico with US$ 139 billion (UNWTO, 2020).

Initiatives to boost domestic tourism

Given the value of domestic tourism and current trends, increasing numbers of countries are taking steps to grow their markets, UNWTO reports. This new Briefing Note provides case studies of initiatives designed to stimulate domestic demand. These include initiativesfocused on marketing and promotion as well as financial incentives (UNWTO, 2020).Examples of countries taking targeted steps to boost domestic tourist numbers include:

In Italy, the Bonus Vacanze initiative offers families with incomes of up to EUR 40,000 contributions of up to EUR 500 to spend on domestic tourism accommodation.

Malaysia allocated US$113 million worth of travel discount vouchers as well as personal tax relief of up to US$227 for expenditure related to domestic tourism.

Costa Rica moved all holidays of 2020 and 2021 to Mondays for Costa Ricans to enjoy longweekends to travel domestically and to extend their stays.

France launched the campaign #CetÉtéJeVisiteLaFrance (‘This Summer, I visit France’) highlighting the diversity of destinations across the country.

Argentina announced the creation of an Observatory for Domestic Tourism to provide a betterprofile of Argentine tourists.

Thailand will subsidise 5 million nights of hotel accommodation at 40% of normal room rates for up to five nights.

Internship at Art in Tanzania

By Emilia Sten and Anna Kevin DSCN6592

We are studying tourism at the University of Applied Sciences in Finland and it was time for us to have our internship. We knew that we wanted to do something out of the regular and we love travelling, so when we found the organization on our school’s list of possible internship places, we couldn’t get it out of our minds. We left the rainy Finland behind us heading for a months adventure, and it really has been one.

It took a while to get used to their “pole pole” (slow) working tempo. We got pretty free hands, but that also meant that we had to take things into our own hands. We wanted to get out as much as possible of our internship, and also see different places. After talking to some workers, we made up a plan, which everyone was happy with.

Our main task was to write stories on Art in Tanzania’s blog. This took us from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar and via Moshi back to Dar. To visit different places and talking to different people gave us a lot, and we hope we have been able to share what we learned to you on the blog. A part of our internship is also to be at the stand on the Nordic travel fair in January in Finland, so if you are around you are more than welcome to meet us there. Today is our last day, and we are amazed how much we have experienced in just a month. We are sad about leaving all the nice people behind and a bit a afraid that the real culture shock will hit us when we come home, since we didn’t have one when we arrived.

(Originally published May 5, 2014)

Discovering bird watching opportunity in Tanzania

By Marjut Valtanen (Originally published Jul 30, 2013)

crowned hornbil1Art in Tanzania will soon offer a nice bird watching trip to a protected area of Ruvu forest reserve near Dar es Salaam. The reserve is a 35 000 hectares mosaic of coastal vegetation including open dry forest, closed dry forest, thicket, swamp, woodland and grassland. Only 10 000 ha of the reserve can be considered a forest and most of its riparian forest in the South.

The Ruvu forest is under constant pressure from the illegal production of charcoal to supply markets in Dar es Salaam which lies 45 kilometers to the North-east of the reserve. Luckily conservation efforts have already been started.

Currently the Ruvu Fuelwood Pilot Project, a project of the Forestry and Beekeeping Division is responsible for the management of the reserve and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TGCG) has been promoting joint forest management at Ruvu South since 2000. The project has seen establishment of a tree nursery and planting program to recover part of the degraded forest.butterfly

Ruvu forest reserve is part of the larger area of Kisaware district coastal forests Important Bird Area (IBA) and one of the most important coastal forests of Tanzania. According to Bird Life International, in Tanzania, coastal forest patches that are probably ‘stepping stones’ during migration are under heavy pressure and becoming increasingly fragmented.

There are several species as criteria for the status of the IBA. Of these two are endangered species; Sokoke Pipit (Anthus sokokensis) and Spotted Ground-thrush (Zoothera guttata). Additionally there are two species that are listed as near threatened; East Coast Akalat (Sheppardia gunningi) and Southern Banded Snake-eagle (Circaetus fasciolatus).

One of the recommended conservation efforts is ecotourism related to these species and bird watching tours are a perfect match to this recommendation.

“On our discovery tour to the reserve, we were walking in the Northern part of tall grassland and thickets. There are comfortable walking paths and you have nice views over small valleys and fields. In the beginning of the walk, we could hear a call of a coucal, but the bird itself is hiding in the bushes. Several yellow bishops (Euplectes capensis crassirostris) and Common bulbuls (Pycnonotus barbatus) fly around. Then we spot a Broad-billed roller (Eurystomus glaucurus) sitting quietly among tree branches. My favorite sightings during our walk are four Crowned hornbills (Tockus alboterminatus) and a Striped Kingfisher (Halcyon c. chelicuti).”

Bird Watching 4Besides being important area for birds, Ruvu forest reserve is also home to four Eastern Arc / Coastal Forest endemic vertebrate species and two species endemic to the coastal forests. There are also 33 species of plants within the reserve which are endemic to the Swahilian Regional Centre of Endemism. If you are really lucky, you may spot African bush elephants (Loxodonta Africana), listed as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN red list, which are frequenting the reserve and migrating between here and Northern Selous, another popular game reserve in Tanzania.

As Ruvu forest reserve is so close to Dar es Salaam, Art in Tanzania intends to offer bird watching tours and support conservation efforts in this area. “I truly enjoyed our couple of hour’s trip away from the bustling city into this quiet reserve and hope to visit the Southern part of the reserve soon to see which bird species can be spotted there.”

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Marjut Valtanen
Art in Tanzania
Team Leader
Conservation and Fair Trade
+255 752 207 873
skype: marvalta