Covid-19 has cost the African tourism industry billions of dollars


Tunisia, Mauritius, Morocco … For African tourism, the loss of earnings as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic in 2021 could amount to 250 billion, a kind of return to normal in 2023.

It will take time for tourism in Africa to recover. This is the result of a report published on June 30th by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Based on statistics from the World Tourism Organization, it assessed past damage and forecast future damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

His conclusions? In 2021, the decline in international tourist arrivals will result in a loss of income for the continent estimated at between $ 170 billion and $ 253 billion, depending on the scenario.

Not surprisingly, North Africa will be the hardest hit region. It is forecast that a 78% decrease in visitor spending will result in a 7.5% decrease in gross domestic product in the pessimistic scenario and 5% in the optimistic scenario. But the rest of the continent isn’t going to do much better with spending down 69%.

At the industry expert level, the impact is just as serious. In North Africa, the low-skilled will be hardest hit, with the labor force falling by 10.4%. In the case of the best-qualified professionals, the largest decline will occur in East Africa, with a decline of 11.8%.

UNCTAD estimates that Tunisia and Morocco lost 79% of their international visitors due to the almost complete shutdown of tourism last year. Other sector dependent countries are also affected: the decrease was 78% for Mauritius, 72% for Kenya, 70% for South Africa, 69% for Egypt and Ethiopia, 55% for Ghana and 43% for Madagascar.

Vaccination, training, strategic thinking

The report’s authors, who predict a return to normal by 2023, offer three pieces of advice to leaders to help fuel the recovery.

  • First, they emphasize the need to speed up vaccination to overcome visitors’ fears that they could contract the virus.
  • Second, they advocate the greatest possible support for workers in the sector, including the development of training programs.
  • After all, they call for strategic thinking and stress that African tourism will not survive the pandemic unscathed.

Older travelers from developed countries, who used to be the biggest contributors to visitor and sales growth, will likely remain limited to domestic tourism for a while. The African sector must concentrate more than ever on diversifying its customers and thus its products, while working on the development of domestic tourism.

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