The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on industries and economies around the world. However, while some industries are recovering quickly, others are lagging behind. To control the spread of the virus and protect the well-being of citizens, governments around the world have imposed COVID-19 restrictions on national and international mobility. As a result, tourism, an industry that thrives on mobility, has experienced a significant contraction.

According to a joint report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the global economy could lose $ 4 trillion due to the direct impact of COVID -19 on tourism and its ripple effect on other closely related sectors in 2020 and 2021.

Based on the report, international tourist arrivals fell by around one billion (73%) in 2020 and 88% in the first quarter of 2021. The report warns that the recovery of the tourism sector is highly dependent on global absorption. of COVID- 19 vaccines. It assumes a 75 percent reduction in tourism in countries with low vaccination rates and a 37 percent reduction in tourism in countries with high vaccination rates.

“The world needs a global immunization effort that will protect workers, mitigate negative social impacts and make strategic decisions regarding tourism, taking into account potential structural changes,” said the Acting Secretary-General of UNCTAD , Isabelle Durant.

UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism is a lifeline for millions of people, and advancing immunization to protect communities and support the safe restart of tourism is essential for the resumption of jobs and the generation of essential resources depend heavily on international tourism.

For many developing countries, the lack of access and distribution of vaccines is expected to significantly slow the post-pandemic recovery of the tourism industry, with an estimated reduction in arrivals of between 60 and 80%.

Coronavirus and tourism in Africa

At the time of writing, Africa has more than 5,670,574 cases of COVID-19, with 145,093 deaths. The African continent would receive approximately 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021, according to a supply forecast made in March 2021 as part of the COVAX initiative. This would be equivalent to immunizing 60 percent of Africa’s 1.3 billion people by June 2022. However, only about two doses of vaccine have been given per 100 people on the continent, compared to an average of 68 doses for Africa. 100 in developed countries. Less than one percent of the African population is fully immunized.

It is important to note that a new strain of the virus has recently led to an increase in the number of confirmed cases and deaths on the continent. The Delta variant, as it is called, is the most contagious right now, and is estimated to be 30-60% more transmissible than the other variants. Its presence has been documented in 16 African countries, with South Africa representing more than half of the cases. South Africa is one of the African countries that benefits the most from tourism. Tourism employs over a million people in the country, as is the case in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria.

Between April and May 2020, the South African Department of Tourism provided 200 million rand (approximately $ 1 million) Tourism assistance fund to help small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs), which make up the majority of the industry. The relief fund is intended to ensure the long-term survival of tourism SMEs after the pandemic. However, with the presence of the Delta variant and a low vaccination rate, the chances of recovery for the industry appear low.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a return to level four measures. Lockdown restrictions have been tightened and gatherings are banned along with travel restrictions inside and outside the country. South Africa has more than two million cases of COVID-19 and more than 61,000 deaths. Less than two percent of a population of around 59 million people have been vaccinated.

According to a 2019 UN report, the tourism sector represents more than 10% of the GDP in 15 African countries, and tourism represents more than 8% of the national wealth in 20 of the 55 African states. Tourism contributes significantly to the GDP in countries like Seychelles, Cape Verde and Mauritius (over 25% of GDP). Tourism employment accounts for more than 20 percent of total employment in Seychelles, Cape Verde, So Tomé and Principe and Mauritius, according to the report.

Seychelles, a small country on the east coast of Africa with a population of around 98,347 people, has vaccinated more people per capita against Covid-19 than any other country in the world. Over 70 percent of the population has received at least one dose. Despite this achievement, there has been a recent upsurge in cases, forcing the country to impose some mobility restrictions. It is believed that the increase in the number of cases is the result of increased economic activity. There have been more than 15,000 cases of the coronavirus in Seychelles, with 71 deaths.

These countries are clear indicators that the African tourism industry will take some time to stabilize. As a result of the pandemic in Africa, an estimated 12.4 million jobs in the travel and tourism industry (equivalent to 51% of tourism jobs) have been lost.

The tourism sector is expected to recover faster in countries with high vaccination rates, such as France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. However, according to the UNWTO, tourism experts do not expect a return to pre-pandemic arrival levels until 2023 or later due to obstacles such as travel restrictions, slow containment viruses, low traveler confidence and the poor economic environment.

Written by Adekunle Agbetiloye

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