250 billion dollars. That’s the estimated revenue loss to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Africa’s tourism industry, marked by flight restrictions, plunging number of passengers and complete disappearance of earnings in all associated sectors: tourist attraction centres, aviation and travel, food and a host of others. A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development puts the date of a likely recovery at 2023, and that is barring any unforeseen circumstances. The report goes on to say that the pandemic deprived Tunisia and Morocco of 79% of their visitors. That drop in South Africa, one of the leading tourism destinations in South Africa was 70%. After being especially hit by the loss of revenue caused by the pandemic, the country looks set to reopen for tourism with the easing of most restrictions put in place to curtail the spread of COVID19. On Business Edge, Tolulope Adeleru-Balogun discusses South Africa’s tourism road to recovery. She’s joined by Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.
One in every twenty South Africans work in the tourism sector and the industry contributes 7% of the country’s GDP and the global flight restrictions had devastating effects on the country’s economy. “As you may know, South Africa is a tourism-dependent country… Outside of mining, tourism is the second-largest here,” Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa says while commenting on how much South Africa’s tourism was affected in the last two years. Almost half a million people who work in various areas of the sector lost their jobs, several businesses have had to be shut down and many practitioners have left the industry to find work elsewhere.
The ending of these restrictions couldn’t have come early enough. While domestic travel experienced a minor recovery in 2021 – achieving 50% of its pre-pandemic numbers, it could have done more if there had been cohesion among regional countries next to South Africa. That, Tshivhengwa says, is about to accelerate as the country has now lifted all restrictions it put in place at the start of the pandemic.