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African countries bet on local tourists for revival

SETH ONYANGO

BATTERED by the pandemic, African tourism sector turns inward to resuscitate the multi-billion dollar industry.

Africa is banking on domestic travellers and vaccine rollouts to jump-start its tourism and hospitality sector, as the continent shows fledging signs of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. More countries are now looking inwards after global coronavirus shutdowns blocked over 60 billion US dollars that inbound visitors inject into the continent’s GDP each year.

“Governments have taken impressive immediate action to restore and re-activate the sector, while protecting jobs and businesses. Many countries are also now developing measures to build a more resilient tourism economy post-COVID-19,” according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Initiatives include “plans to support the sustainable recovery of tourism, promoting the digital transition and move to a greener tourism system, and rethinking tourism for the future,” according to the OECD.

“Domestic tourism has restarted and is helping to mitigate the impact on jobs and businesses in some destinations. However, real recovery will only be possible when international tourism returns,” the report reads.

In a previous, 2019 report, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) indicated that domestic tourism already contributed 56 percent of Africa’s overall tourism revenue, with international travellers accounting for 44 per cent of the total.

The foreign tourist flow shrank 80 per cent due to the pandemic in 2020 but the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) asserts local tourism has softened the blow.

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Kenyan economist Churchill Ogutu said that local tourists would continue to energise the sector in many African countries, except in Seychelles and Mauritius, whose tourism sectors rely almost entirely on foreign tourists.

“Other countries have diversified portfolio of products such that with the opening up of containment measures of these countries, they are able to harness the domestic tourism, case in point the Kenyan tourism sector,” Ogutu said.

“But market heterogeneity means all countries cannot benefit from domestic travel, like Kenya which has the coastal beaches and the safaris.”

Ogutu noted that household income had bounced back to pre-Covid levels, injecting much-needed disposable income to oil the tourism sector. The game-changer, he said, would be the successful rollout of vaccines in Africa, which would boost travellers’ confidence.

Meanwhile, African governments can offer tax exemptions and holidays to tourism businesses to help them recover from the consequences of the pandemic. Such tax holidays and exemptions would help tour operators plough earnings back into their businesses to help them recover and grow in the short term.

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By The African Mirror

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