Tourism has been a fundamental component of the African economy for years, with many countries depending on the industry as a primary source of revenue. In addition to supporting the economy directly through foreign currency, tourism in Africa has become a reliable source of income for many locals. Some of these individuals work as tour guides, while others own tourism-dependent businesses like hotels and cultural craft shops. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry has changed dramatically over the past year.
The World Bank reported that, in 2012, tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) contributed $36 billion to the region’s GDP. The report also indicated that many countries in SSA were still working to develop their tourism facilities. Since 2012, these countries have improved security and provided better quality resources to attract tourists and tourism investors. However, COVID-19 disturbed this progress. Many countries established touristic travel bans to fight the pandemic, and many visitor attractions had to close. In total, the World Travel and Tourism Council has predicted that Africa’s resulting GDP loss could be $52.8 billion.
COVID-19 terminated many jobs, including tourism-related occupations like travel agencies and small businesses. The World Bank has reported that “one in twenty jobs in SSA is in travel and tourism.” According to a recent study from the African Union, an estimate of 2 million jobs directly or indirectly related to travel and tourism will disappear during the pandemic. These losses will affect all citizens in this region. For example, consumers will experience increased prices on commodities and higher taxes to compensate for the loss of tourism revenue.
However, countries typically reliant on tourism for economic stability are finding creative ways to adapt to the changes.
Many countries had no choice but to close borders in order to control the entrance and spread of COVID-19. Various policies implemented now encourage people to observe social distancing and wear masks in public places. To promote the industry amidst these new safety guidelines, the U.N. reported that Kenya and Zambia encouraged domestic tourism in the absence of foreign visitors. South Africa has donated approximately $11 million in relief aid to eligible tourism-related businesses, and the International Trade Centre reported that young Gambians who worked in community tourism became “COVID-19 first responders to awareness and prevention.”
These initiatives have helped people gain some income and retain access to basic needs. Additionally, countries have been conducting virtual tours in parks to continue engaging international tourists and increase chances of visitation following the pandemic. BBC reported that Kenya, Seychelles and Rwanda would open in August 2020 for international travelers; however, tourists would have to undergo different procedures to gain safe access to hotels and touristic sites.
Many African countries greatly profit from the tourism industry. This industry has been rapidly growing in Africa. In fact, the continent expected a consistent increase in the number of incoming international visitors over the next several years. However, in response to the recent surge of COVID-19, the continent is adapting to creatively compensate for these changes and continue protecting citizens’ health and safety.
– Renova Uwingabire