Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Covid Travel Restrictions Devastate Africa’s Tourism

A couple of tourists scouts for animals during a guided safari tour at the Dinokeng Game Reserve outside Pretoria, on August 7, 2020. Photographer: Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images

Global restrictions on travel have dealt a devastating blow to African nations who depend on tourists and their hard currency to support an industry that employs millions of people on the continent.

National carriers in Mauritius, Kenya and Namibia ran into more financial trouble as flights were grounded. In South Africa, listed hotel group, Sun International Ltd., announced two of its casinos won’t reopen after the country’s coronavirus lockdown ends. Kenya expects the number of flight passengers to fall by about 1.6 million and losses of as much as $511 million in hotel-room revenue if the pandemic persists.

The following charts show the importance of the tourism sector to parts of the continent, as well as the pain lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus have caused.

Adding to Output

Travel and tourism contributed $168 billion to African economies last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Island nations including Mauritius and Seychelles heavily rely on the travelers for revenue.

Income Generator

Several African economies without mineral resources and oil have managed to monetize their beaches and wildlife. Uganda and Rwanda are popular destinations for mountain gorilla trekking, while Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros have drawn millions of tourists seeking seaside holidays. Spending by these visitors, a key source of revenue, has dried up since March.

Rwanda 2019 Tourism Revenue Up 17%, Boosted by Gorilla Trekking

Drop in Visitors

In 2019, the number of visitors to Mauritius was about 1.4 million — that was more than its population of 1.3 million people. The picture changed when the Indian Ocean island nation imposed a lockdown from March 20 and arrivals for April, May and June were almost zero. The country recorded its last Covid-19 death on April 27, but that won’t be enough to get tourists back. Its national carrier, key to transferring the guests, was placed under voluntary administration and travel restrictions remain in Mauritius’s biggest source-markets including France and South Africa.

African Island That Stamped Out the Virus Now Needs Tourists

Shut Down

In South Africa, the impact of restrictions on the movement of people and business, also showed up in domestic-tourism numbers. Income from accommodation fell 99% during the first full month of the lockdown, and has yet to recover. The crash in food-and-beverage sales eased slightly in May as restaurants opened for delivery, but a renewed ban on the sale of alcohol could further weigh on the industry. Travel for leisure is still only allowed within provinces, which means seaside holidays and most game resorts are off limits to people in Gauteng, the richest and most populous province.


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