East Africa: East Africa in New Plan to Pull Tourism Out of Covid-19 Hole

Arusha — A study that can give the best Covid-19 recovery options for East Africa’s tourism industry is on the cards.

The exercise is the brainchild of the East African Business Council (EABC) and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERIC), a Nairobi-based think tank.

The study will assess the impact of the pandemic which has severely brought the multi-million dollar hospitality industry to its knees.

It will also focus on post-recovery strategies that need to be adopted by the governments to safeguard the key sector from such disruptions.

“The project aims to minimize the economic impact of Covid-19 by building the regional intergovernmental institutions capacity,” EABC said yesterday.

Until the first case of the global pandemic was reported in the EA region in March, tourism was the leading economic sector in the region.

It contributed an average of 12 percent to gross domestic product (GDP) of the six East African Community (EAC) partner states in 2017.

Also by 2017, tourism arrivals into the region had reached a record 5.7 million, contributing an average of 18.8 per cent of the total export earnings.

The contribution was higher in Rwanda (30.5 percent), followed by Tanzania (26 percent), Kenya (18 percent), Uganda (17.9 percent) and Burundi 1.5 per cent.

The GDP contribution is also highest in Rwanda (12.7 per cent) followed by Kenya (9.7 percent) and Tanzania nine percent.

However, with the outbreak of the global pandemic the figures declined drastically, impacting heavily on the fastest growing sector. It was estimated that the EAC region will potentially lose international tourism receipts to the tune of $5.4 billion for 2020.

About 6.4 million foreign tourists may have been unable to visit the region for the year coming to an end due to global travel restrictions.

“The trickle down effects are being felt across affiliated industries and the rest of the economy,” the Arusha-based apex body of private sector associations said.

The Covid-19 impact on the EAC tourism largely manifested in decline in safari expeditions, closure of hotels and general cut back in operations.

This led to, among others, loss of revenue for the regional airlines and loss of jobs for thousands who were employed in different segments of the sector.

EABC said under the study, it will develop policy options that will have to be adopted by the partner states within the framework of Covid-19 recovery.

The study will be titled; ‘Impact of Covid -19 on Tourism and Hospitality in the EAC and Proposed Policy Options for Recovery’.

It will generate policy options that the six EAC partner states “should adopt to protect sector players from Covid-19 disruptions and future pandemics”.

The project also aims to leverage the private sector’s technical and resource capabilities for the Covid-19 emergency response in the EAC. “Disruptions in the tourism sector, as a major contributor to economic development have been a blow to economic growth,” the statement said.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO) estimates international tourist arrivals will this year decline by 20 to 30 per cent due to the disease.

This translates into a loss of $300 to $450 million in international tourism receipts (exports), almost one third of the $1.5 trillion generated globally.