Post-Covid-19: Africa Prepares for Tourism Recovery

Good news for the African continent: at the start of 2021, the tourism industry should start again. In any case, this is what the experts from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) project. While the number of international tourists is expected to fall by 60 to 80% in 2020 as a result of the pandemic of the new coronavirus, the Madrid-based UN agency offers more positive prospects for Africa and the Middle East. East. “The majority of experts predicting a recovery in 2020”, while those on the Americas are the most pessimistic, with a recovery perceived as difficult for 2020. For Europe and Asia, “the prospects are mixed, half of experts expecting a recovery during this year. ” A total loss of $ 80 billion in tourism exports worldwide has been recorded. It must be said that Africa was on an upward trajectory since last year with an increase of around 3 to 5% of international arrivals on the continent which is mainly explained by the higher number of companies serving the And the ease of visa procedures.

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One of the most affected sectors

According to the United Nations, the tourism industry as a whole – catering, accommodation, leisure, parks – employs more than 24.6 million people on the continent. Nearly a million people work in this sector, whether in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa. The sector contributes up to $ 169 billion to the African economy, or 7.1% of the continent’s GDP. But due to the spread of Covid-19, many of these small and medium-sized businesses are cutting jobs and losing income. The UN estimates that the pandemic will cost up to 2 million direct and indirect tourism jobs on the continent. Five international organizations have already warned that without emergency funding, the Covid-19 crisis could cause the sector to collapse in Africa. Example in Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni already warned in his last speech to the nation that his country could lose up to $ 1.6 billion in revenue. Tourism is one of the economic pillars of this East African country and one of the main sources of foreign exchange. Uganda welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists each year attracted by mountain gorillas in the forest in the southwest of the country on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. But because of the increase in coronavirus cases – as of June 3, the African Center for Disease Prevention and Control has recorded 158,318 confirmed cases of coronavirus -, Africa has really no other choice to keep its borders closed for now. Cancellations and postponements follow one another, they could result in a loss of 30 to 50 billion dollars of revenue for the continent’s tourism industry this year, according to the United Nations.

A cautious recovery

But proof that a recovery is possible this year, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said in a statement published Wednesday, June 3 that Mauritius was a safe destination in the context of Covid-19. This body has implemented a series of compulsory health measures as part of efforts to activate the revival of tourist activities. Since April 26, no local case of Covid-19 has been recorded in Mauritius, which prompted the government to end sanitary containment on May 31. The country is now going to another phase while waiting to welcome soon its first visitors at the end of the period of border closure, application of strict containment measures and isolation of the sick, as well as intensive tests. In this context, UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili stressed “the need for vigilance, responsibility and international cooperation as the world slowly opens up again”.

Boost local tourism

According to the UNWTO, it will take at least 10 months for the global tourism industry to recover from the effects of the coronavirus. A little more for Africa. For Elcia Grandcourt, director of the Africa department of the World Tourism Organization, there is no doubt that African tourism will recover from the crisis. Especially if the continent gives priority to domestic tourism, she explained during a videoconference devoted to tourism in Uganda.

“It will be necessary to stimulate domestic, even continental and regional tourism, because that is where the market will be, and we do not know when other countries will open their borders to facilitate international arrivals. For Ms. Elcia, continental flights are likely to open faster than international flights.

“Intra-regional travel can be stimulated by developing unique products to stimulate domestic tourism and by adopting diversification. There is a need to rethink the model, for example by examining how other countries have exploited the local tourism market to increase their numbers, ”she explains. In conclusion, companies on the continent should adapt to the context by improving their digital offers, by focusing on local tourism, more focused on the surrounding environment, but also by equipping themselves with health facilities. proximity.

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