How Covid-19 has affected regional tourism

0

East Africa Community (EAC) the Partner States are estimated to have lost international tourism receipts to the tune of  $ 4.8 Billion in the year 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic.

This follows a study by the East African Business Council (EABC) with the support of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: aimed at assessing the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism and hospitality industry and policy options to protect sector players from COVID-19 disruptions and future pandemics.

Tourism is one of the largest foreign exchange earners and fastest-growing sectors in the East African Community (EAC). According to the EAC Secretariat, tourist arrivals in the EAC region increased from 3.5 million persons in 2006 to about 7 million in 2019. Tourism contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the EAC Partner States by an average of 9.5% in 2019. It contributed an average of 17.2% to EAC total exports and 7.1% to employment. However, the upward trajectory in tourism in the region with its positive impact on the economy was devastatingly affected by the onset of COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

The study reveals that tourism which contributed an average of 9.5% in  GDP in 2019 and an average of 17.2% to EAC total exports, was one of the most affected areas in the region. This was reflected in massive reductions in international tourist arrivals, receipts, jobs, visitors to parks and hotel occupancy rates.

From March 2020 when the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in the region, the report reveals that 4.2 Million foreign tourists were unable to travel to their preferred destinations in the bloc.

This saw a dip of about 2 million jobs, from the about 4.1 million jobs recorded in 2019  to 2.2 million jobs by the end of the year.

The study also revealed that visitors to national parks declined significantly by about 65%, impacting negatively wildlife conservation efforts in the region.

The study also shows that hotels in the region registered average occupancy rates of below 30% thus affecting their operations significantly including maintaining staff.

An online survey conducted as part of the study indicated that 26.5% of the businesses lost their entire projected revenues during the pandemic period, 44% lost 75% of their projected revenue and 17.6% lost 50% of their projected revenues.

The respondents indicated that 35% reduced staff by more than 50%, 20% reduced staff by below and up to 50%, 32% maintained staff at partial pay and only 8% maintained all staff at full pay.

Also Read: EABC push for Open Skies Policy to boost trade, tourism

Tourism is one of the largest foreign exchange earners and fastest-growing sectors in the East African Community (EAC). According to the EAC Secretariat, tourist arrivals in the EAC region increased from 3.5 million persons in 2006 to about 7 million in 2019. Tourism contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the EAC Partner States by an average of 9.5% in 2019. It contributed an average of 17.2% to EAC total exports and 7.1% to employment. However, the upward trajectory in tourism in the region with its positive impact on the economy was devastatingly affected by the onset of COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Covid-19 in Africa

The report indicates that businesses turned to borrowing to fund their running expenditures such as rent and utilities due to reduced operational capital while the loss of jobs saw a decline in household incomes,

Speaking during a webinar validating the studies, Mr. Dennis Karera, EABC Vice Chairman noted that the study will contribute to developing macro-economic policy options for consideration and adoption by EAC Partner States.

“ Adopting an EAC coordinated approach in reviving the tourism sector by marketing the region as a single tourist destination, opening EAC skies, rolling out national-wide vaccination drives and mutual recognition of COVID-19 test certificates in the region is certainly critical,” he said.

The Study recommended for tourism destinations to have pandemic preparedness and risk management plans to minimize such instances in the future.

According to the Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) Mr Mohammed Hersi, the cessation of movements has been lifted is good news but Covid19 does not respect memos or Presidential announcement.

“Wear Mask. Sanitise.  Wash Hands. Social distance. Those who lock themselves in bars and dim lights, it is not the Government of Kenya that will struggle to breath. You will take the virus to your wife even parents.” He warned.

Mr Hersi also called upon the pub owners to observe the Covid-19 safety regulations.

“To the pub owners who allow revelers to drink inside their bars past curfew hours it is the like of you who make nonsense of all the hard work when rest of hospitality industry is following the guidelines and protocols to the letter.  I promise you one thing; you’ll closed down.” He says.

The chairman has called upon all the service providers in the hospitality sector to observe the set regulations in order

“…As always I choose to remain an optimist that we shall overcome…” he adds.

The report also revealed that the tourism stakeholders are calling for the sustaining of stimulus packages provided by EAC Governments to re-engineer and re-define the tourism products by also leveraging digital technologies in tourism marketing and promotion.

Also Read: Zimbabwe prepares itself ahead of a tourism recovery

Yvonne Kawira is an award winning journalist with an interest in matters, regional trade, tourism, entrepreneurship and aviation. She has been practicing for six years and has a degree in mass communication from St Paul’s University.

Leave A Reply