COVID-19 ravages tourism industry in Kenya, South Africa

COVID-19 ravages tourism industry in Kenya, South Africa

Several countries are going back into lockdown due to fears of the second wave of the COVID -19 pandemic as visitors to Kenya remain on the decline.

In December and January, tourists and citizens in the diaspora are known to flock the country but this time it was a different scenario.

“Observing the COVID-19 measures while traveling has discouraged people from holidaying,’ said Moses Bunyi, a Manager at Muthaiga Travels Limited Kenya.

Tourist arrivals in Kenya dropped by 72 percent in the first ten months to October last year compared to 1arrivals in the same period in 2019, according to Tourism CS Najib Balala.

As a result, the tourism industry has experienced massive job losses, pay cuts and several companies have shut down.

“Our company deals mainly with corporates and civil societies (NGOs) but restricted and limited essentials travels have seen business reduce significantly, a situation that has seen us pay keen attention to domestic travels which accounts for a small number,” Mr. Bunyi said.

He added that uncertainty of the future and fear of contracting COVID-19 has seen a majority of tourists decide against traveling.

Industry players in South Africa are also bearing the brunt as the country extends coronavirus restrictions, citing a “massive increase” in Covid-19 cases driven by a variant discovered there last year.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that 20 land borders will be closed until February 15.

CNN reports that the closures will have several exceptions such as those traveling for medical emergencies.

“Tourism in South Africa is one of the greatest contributors to GDP (of about 9%) hence the reduction and lack of tourists has affected the tourism industry by a revenue loss of over 40 billion,” said Rofhiwa Madzene, a business journalist in South Africa.

She added: “When the nation command council initiated Level 5 lock down, a lot of the business centres shut down completely because of the closed borders and have been unable to open again. A majority of tourism businesses used insurances to stay afloat, pay their employees or even maintain any level of presence. Those unlucky with the insurance companies simply closed doors.”

According to her, in August 2020 when the president opened up the country, domestic tourism was revived but stringent regulations saw businesses lose revenue as they increased their prices to make up for the losses.

The price increase, she said, discouraged local tourists who could not afford it hence local tourism did not pick up as was anticipated.

“International tourism had started picking up after August however in the last few weeks with the reports about the new strain of coronavirus in South Africa, countries like the United Kingdom and Germany have banned travel to our country,” said Madzene.

European Union countries are among the largest contributors to international tourism in South Africa and the travel ban has greatly affected the tourism industry.

“Due to the pandemic, some of South Africa’s biggest resorts like Sun City have not been able to open up all their facilities even though COVID-19 measures have been eased, there still are not enough tourists,” said Madzene.

South Africa has reported at least 1,246,643 Covid-19 cases, including 33,579 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

Article by Sharon Kiburi with additional report from CNN