The Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on tourism and travel in Africa; however, there are opportunities for the tourism sector in the medium term, and potential for recovery as borders start reopening, speakers said during a World Health Organisation- (WHO-) hosted webinar on July 2.
WHO Africa regional director Dr Matshidiso Moeti emphasised that, as countries start to reopen their borders, they must take health and precautionary measures as advised by the organisation.
She noted that a big factor in Covid-19’s spread has been from those that show mild symptoms or are asymptomatic; therefore, there needs to be tracing and contact testing for those who are travelling.
This necessitates that passenger information be collected properly and managed with the correct and relevant authorities; and passengers must be aware of who to contact in all instances.
Other measures for travel entail proper cleaning of handrails and surfaces, the wearing of masks and physical distancing measures as applicable.
African Union Commission (AUC) Infrastructure and Energy Commissioner Dr Amani Abou-Zeid said the pandemic had severely impacted on the gross domestic product (GDP) of African countries, especially considering that tourism accounts for about 10% of the continent’s gross domestic product.
She said air travel, in particular, had been impacted on, with about 24-million people in the industry affected, which also then affects their families; and further, the industries interlinked to tourism and travel.
While the situation is ongoing and continuously changing, she indicated that recent estimates show that $55-billion had been lost within three months in Africa for the sector, in a year that was meant to have seen an increase in travel and air transport.
She indicated that the situation has led to economic, job and livelihood losses, as well as put a strain on environmental and wildlife protection, and communities, with travel permeating across many sectors.
“Travel and tourism are not a luxury in Africa, they are our livelihoods,” she emphasised.
She mentioned that air transport and airlines have been especially impacted, with about $8-billion of losses, and consequences including salary cuts, layoffs, a lack of maintenance and many airlines potentially going out of business.
However, she noted that there were some opportunities in the medium term and positive impacts. For example, larger airlines, such as Ethiopian airlines, are buying up smaller airlines.
Moreover, she said the pandemic presented an opportunity for furthering the pursuit of the single African air transport market, given that global supply chains have been interrupted and the focus is now on localisation and regional sourcing.
Moreover, this could be applied to tourism, with inter-African tourism bolstered and encouraged, by reducing the high fees and difficulties with logistics, she noted. This could also help cushion the blow with regard to international tourism losses.
A positive impact from the pandemic in the mobility space has been that lives have been saved, as mobility has been reduced on roads, which has led to a considerable decrease in the amount of road deaths on the continent.
International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) Western and Central Africa regional director Prosper Zo'o Minto'o also emphasised the considerable impact of the pandemic on air transport.
He said the continent has seen a loss of 60% of international and domestic travel, owing to mitigation measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus.
As borders start to reopen and air travel will start to pick up, ICAO, in collaboration with all stakeholders in the aviation industry, has put forward recommendations for safe air travel through means of public health corridors. This entails shoring up all elements related to air travel; from cargo or passengers; to airports; to airline staff, maintenance staff, medical staff; and boarding and disembarking.
These were put forward in early June, and entities will start looking to implement them as appropriate.