How the tourism industry can recover post COVID-19

Impalas inside Akagera National Park. / Sam Ngendahimana.

The tourism sector is one of the most affected economic aspects by the novel Coronavirus as countries implement lockdown measures to curb transmission of the ailment. The sector has also been affected by halting of flights and travel as well as stoppage of all events.

Regional tourism experts say that effects could bite further in the coming days due to economic implications in source markets as a recession casts a shadow across the globe.

 

This they said could see the tourism sector take longer to recover even after the lifting of lockdown measures.

 

Rwanda for instance missed out on about $10M from the tourism sector in the months of March and April alone.

 

With that, experts say that recovery models and strategies of the tourism sector ought to be different from other sectors which only require capital injection to restart supply chains.

Among recovery strategies that could bring back the regional tourism sector back to its fading glory is tapping onto the domestic tourism market before international travels can resume.

However, they said that this will require adjustment of business models to accommodate regional tourism as way to keep the lights on for the short and medium-term.

Anita Mendiratta, an Advisor to Secretary-General of The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations   said that Small and Medium and countries ought to readjust their models to accommodate local clientele.

Speaking at a virtual regional meeting last week, Carmen Nibigira a regional tourism policy analyst said that the pandemic will among things affect the travel industry and it was uncertain when global markets would resume operations hence the need to have contingency strategies built on regional tourism.

Domestic tourism she said should also target clientele from across the continent.

 Nibigira added that the market recapturing efforts should be coupled with policies that ease free movement of people across the continent as well as rates that are affordable for African tourists.

“We cannot continue offering what we were offering prior to the pandemic, we need an entire new focus and approach,” she said.

Others say that the tourism sector should look beyond survival and recovery to accommodate a change in trends that is expected post the COVID-19 era. This could include fear of travel, events planning schedules, budgetary allocations among others.

Mohammed Hersi the President of Kenya Tourism Federation and Operations Director Pollmans Tours and Safaris said that with the pandemic likely to change trends of travel and having major effects on source markets, there is need to start considering new business models.

Other interventions that could serve the recovery of the sector, they said include setting aside budgets to showcase destinations in respective countries through creative ways that will target more of their target audiences.

Governments were also called upon to play an active role in de-risking the sector to attract investments for the new strategies.  Beyond the fiscal measures that have been taken, Judy Kepher a Tourism Policy Analyst said that regional governments will also have a role in improving the investment climate to be more conducive towards tourism sector investors. Tourism is considered as one of the largest foreign exchange earners and fastest-growing sectors in the East African Region.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates international tourist arrivals could decline by 20 per cent to 30 per cent in 2020 translating into a loss of $300 to $450Bin international tourism receipts.

East African Community States are projected to lose over of $5.4B for the year 2020 given the projected long-term closure of seaports and airports with about 6.2 Million foreign tourists not travelling to their preferred EAC destinations. 

cmwai@newtimesrwanda.com

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