African tourism has been put on ice by coronavirus – here’s how some countries are reviving it

Photo showing a beach devoid of fruit sellers in the Gambia
On Bijilo Beach in the Gambia, there are no fruit sellers in sight. gisela gerson lohman-braun, CC BY-SA

In the Gambia, teams of young tourism guides in their first holiday season are doing something very different from what they learned in training. They have been redeployed to act as coronavirus guides for their local communities, raising awareness and explaining to their fellow Gambians how to prevent the spread of infection.

On the beaches, the normally busy fruit seller huts are empty and everything is quiet. Such is the situation in many African tourist resorts in 2020, with tourism reduced to almost nothing.

Globally, tourism could lose around 120 million jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. The number of holidaymakers travelling abroad is forecast to halve in 2020 as more than US$3 trillion (£2.4 trillion) gets wiped off global tourism GDP.

This will be keenly felt by the many countries whose people depend on tourism. Two examples on opposite coasts of Africa are the Gambia and Kenya. Tourism accounts for 9% of Kenya’s GDP and 20% in the Gambia. It provides a living to around 10% of Kenyans and nearly a fifth of Gambians, while acting as an important source of foreign exchange.

In both countries, the pandemic is damaging hotels and tour operators, putting people out of work, reducing GDP, and affecting thousands of small businesses in the tourism supply chain, such as providers of food, transport and souvenirs.

There are also wider consequences that may be less obvious. Poverty alleviation initiatives tied to tourism through youth and women’s empowerment programmes are being set back.

Tourism can also support conservation. In Kenya, the Ol’Pejeta Conservancy to the north of Nairobi is home to the world’s last two northern white rhinos. In 2018, Ol’Pejeta spent US$2.6 million on wildlife conservation and community development, much of it protecting endangered species from poaching.

This is an excerpt from an article by Davina Stanford and Adama Bah, originally published on The Conversation

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