East African business bloc urges support for tourism

Regional tourism industry faces losses of more than $5.4 billion in 2020 due to novel coronavirus pandemic

James Tasamba   | 07.04.2020
East African business bloc urges support for tourism

KIGALI, Rwanda 

The East African Business Council (EABC) has urged countries in the region to make additional funds available for the tourism sector, facing revenue losses of more than $5.4 billion in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.  

There is need for urgent fiscal and monetary measures that help protect jobs, sustain the self-employed, support companies' liquidity, operations and accelerate future recovery, the EABC said in a report released Monday on the impact of the outbreak on the tourism sectors of Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan.

"Departments of tourism have to make additional funds available to assist small and medium enterprises in the tourism and hospitality sector which are under particular stress due to the travel restrictions," said the report.

Kenya has already earmarked $5 million to fund the nation's tourism recovery plan following the pandemic. 

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, tourists have canceled bookings, leaving tour operators and other stakeholders counting losses, it added. 

Travel cancelations to the region by foreign tourists are forecast to reach about 6.2 million, with the effects to be felt across affiliated industries and the rest of the economy, according to the report.

The number of tourists visiting Serengeti in Tanzania dropped from 6,000 per day to 24 in the wake of the virus. 

In Rwanda, where nature tourism contributes substantial revenue, tourism and research, as well as gorilla trekking activities in the country's parks, were suspended effective March 21 as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19. 

In terms of tourism revenue, a gorilla tracking permit costs $560 in Uganda, and upwards of $1,000 in Rwanda.

The Rwanda Convention Bureau, which promotes the country as a tourist destination, said that about 20 meetings scheduled for March and April were indefinitely postponed as a result of flight bans. These were expected to generate some $8 million.

Also, numerous hotels in the region have issued indefinite closure notices. 

Tourism is considered to be one of the largest foreign exchange earners and fastest-growing sectors in East Africa. 

The World Tourism Organization has estimated that international tourism arrivals could decline by 20%-30% in 2020, translating to losses of up to $450 billion in international tourism.

International tourism contributes 44% to Africa's tourism industry while domestic tourism contributes 56%, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Since appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 184 countries and regions, according to figures compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Over 1.3 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the global death toll nearing 74,000, and more than 275,800 recoveries.

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