COVID-19 WEIGHS ON AFRICA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY

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  • Tourism accounted for 8.1% of Africa’s GDP in 2018
  • Ebola hit countries’ tourism were affected for at least 2-3 years
  • Global tourism rebounded after 2 years in the aftermath of the Global recession

Tourism is a key driver and contributor to the economic development of the continent of Africa accounting for 8.1% of Africa’s GDP in 2018 having raked in US$194.4 billion. While the full weight of the Corona Virus is yet to be qualified and fully quantified, it is imminent, Africa’s tourism sector will be dealt a major blow by the pandemic.

The melodrama that hit East and Western Africa in the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic could serve as a template of the havoc Corona Virus could produce for Africa’s tourism sector.

Some 67 million tourists visited Africa in 2018, representing a surge of 7% from a year earlier, making Africa the second-fastest-growing region when it comes to tourism, after the Asia Pacific. This was a significant jump from 63 million visitors in 2017 and 58 million visitors in 2016, according to Jumia’s 2019 Hospitality Report.

The region’s tourism industry grew at a rate of 5.6% in 2018, second only to the Asia Pacific. This compares to a global growth rate of  3.9% annually. As COVID-19 takes its toll with  885 301 confirmed cases globally of which 5 882 are in Africa, the industry is expected to register a dip in 2020.

The West Africa Ebola epidemic, which had its first reported case in December 2013, lasted two-and-a-half years, affecting almost 30,000 people.  99% of cases were in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

 According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, Sierra Leone’s tourist arrivals declined by 50% from 2013 to 2014. Countries as far away as Kenya, over 3,000 miles from the outbreak, reported a significant loss in arrivals during the period. The majority of airlines froze flight routes and a number of neighboring countries closed their borders with the affected country, including Senegal and Côte D’Ivoire.

GDP in Sierra Leone slowed from a 10-year average growth rate of 7.8% to 4.6% in 2014, While tourists were urged to avoid the Ebola zone in West Africa, many saw the entire African continent as a risk. The rest of West Africa (excluding Nigeria) saw a 7.7% decrease in arrivals in 2014. According to the CDC using World Bank projections $2.2 billion in GDP was “lost” in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2015

While the pandemic itself has set a travel scare globally, the economic effects of the pandemic on global economies would also have a towering effect on Africa’s tourism.

Experts anticipate an economic recession of a similar magnitude to the 2007/20018 global economic meltdown. The implication would be slowed global economic growth in 2020. This slowed economic growth would narrow down to tourists whose movements would also be limited.

In 2008, International tourism receipts reached $852 billion corresponding to a decrease in real terms of 5,7% while tourist arrivals dove 4,2% globally in 2009. In the same vein, the number of international tourist arrivals belonging to the first 8 months of 2010, exceeded the record achieved in the same period of 2008, pre-crisis term.

Despite the global crisis, a 2% growth at the number of incoming tourists in Turkey attracted attention. However, the negative effects of the crisis were reflected in tourism revenues by a 3,2% decline in 2009. The sector was hit very hard globally by the 2008 crisis but it recovered itself speedily by 2010.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), after the decline in 2009, international tourist arrivals went up by %7 to 935 million in 2010, a 2-year recovery.

Going by precedence, it would take 2 to 3 years before the Global and the African Tourism sector rebounds.

Yet Africa as a whole still occupies only a small slice of the international tourism market accounting for 62.9m (or about 5.1%) of the 1.2bn global tourism arrivals in 2016, according to a separate report by the Africa Tourism Monitor compiled by the African Development Bank.

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