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Tourism Suffers as COVID-19 Restrictions Throttle Safari Industry

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
Journalist. Reach me at Luis@ITNewsAfrica.com

SafariBookings.com, an online marketplace for African safari tours, recently ran its fourth monthly survey among 308 safari tour operators. The survey’s aim was to acquire a detailed understanding of the impact in the safari industry from the downturn in travel associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

The results were in line with the previous three surveys – an overwhelming number of tour operators are suffering from a decline in bookings of at least 75%. A terrible figure for an industry in which so many people rely on in East and Southern Africa.

As one operator from Tanzania says, “We have not received any bookings from potential clients since the COVID-19 spread worldwide.” And it’s a similar story in neighbouring Kenya, “At the moment customers are not willing to make any reservations due to COVID-19.”

[Tweet “An overwhelming number of tour operators are suffering from a decline in bookings of at least 75%. A terrible figure for an industry in which so many people rely on in East and Southern Africa.”]

The impact is being acutely felt in Africa’s $12.4 billion safari industry – many parks and reserves have lost most of their revenue, and job losses are being felt in local communities which rely on the safari industry for employment.

Around 93% of operators say they had lost at least three-quarters of the bookings they normally rely upon at this time of year. An extraordinary drop in business with many operators unable to afford to even hire local staff. A Kenyan operator put it in perspective, saying, “We don’t have bookings, and we don’t have money to pay salaries for staff, office rental etc. Things are really bad.”

70% of operators who responded to the survey say that cancellations had increased by at least 75% on existing bookings. Less than 3% say it was business as usual.

“[The coronavirus] has definitely effected our booking request levels and increased cancellations. For now, there isn’t much we can do but we choose to embark on putting a digital marketing strategy in place post-COVID-19. We look forward to a better tomorrow,” a safari company says in the survey.

As countries such as Tanzania become beacons of hope for the safari industry, reopening their borders to international visitors, there is a positive tone taking its first tentative steps from some tour operators.

“Coronavirus has been a nightmare in our tourism industry, it has wounded everything. The safari business is no longer the same. But all in all, our hopes are still alive. We shall rise again, we shall shine again, we shall bounce back stronger like never before.”

For the full report on how COVID-19 restrictions have hampered the safari industry, click here.

Kenya’s virtual safari

Just recently, Kenya’s Ministry for Tourism and Wildlife began operations of virtual safaris in order to begin attracting tourists to the country’s natural wonders, as well as to begin re-establishing the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edited by Luis Monzon
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