The emergence of the novel coronavirus is threatening the tourism industry in Tanzania, with about 477,000 ready to lose their jobs, while revenue is expected to shrink by 77 percent if the virus continues to spike, the government has warned.
According to the Tanzania Ministry of Tourism, the number of tourists arriving in Tanzania rose to 1.5 million in 2018 from 1.3 million the year before, with the sector earning $2.4 billion compared to $2.3 billion in 2017.
Tanzania is one of Africa’s leading tourism markets, with exotic landscapes of the Serengeti plains and the Ngorongoro Crater which is an extinct volcanic caldera that has seen the world of tourism standstill as the entire globe battles with the coronavirus lockdown which has since halted the visitation of travelers.
The Natural Resources and Tourism minister, Hamisi Kigwangalla, while speaking before the parliament on the current situation, said the number of people who will lose jobs accounts for 76 percent of the total direct employment in the sub-sector. This is because the number of tourists anticipated visiting Tanzania during that period will decline from 1.9 million to 437,000, a 76 percent drop.
Presently with 623,000 visitors in the country, the coronavirus could collapse that number to 146,000, while the sector’s earnings could shrink from $2.6billion to $598 million, the minister said. Looking at the likely impact of COVID-19 on international tourism, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) predicts a 20-30 percent decrease this year compared with 2019 figures.
The UN agency stresses that these numbers are based on the latest developments as the global community faces an unprecedented social and economic challenge and should be interpreted with caution in view of the extremely uncertain nature of the current crisis.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors. However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency – our first and utmost priority – while working together to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on employment, and to support the wider recovery efforts through providing jobs and driving economic welfare worldwide.”
The coronavirus outbreak in Africa has heavily affected long-haul traffic. According to a survey of 443 safari tour operators by SafariBookings.com, an online marketplace revealed that 93 percent have lost at least three-quarters of their bookings to the coronavirus outbreak, and almost all have seen a soar in cancellations.
Similarly, South Africa’s main sources of income – mining and tourism are threatened by the pandemic. With 10.47 million arrivals in 2018, the country was second to Egypt in tourism receipts, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Overall, tourism contributed $194.2 billion (8.5 percent) to Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2018.
The study mentioned that tourism employs more than a million people in Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania and over 20 percent of total employment in Seychelles, Cape Verde, Sao Tome, Principe, and Mauritius.
Africa’s tourism sector is reeling from the impact of COVID-19, with the Tanzanian minister noting that rapid assessment on the virus carried in April showed that the country started recording losses in March, and further adding that by March 25, 13 airlines had stopped flying to the country, diminishing hopes of tourists arrivals.
By Ahmed Iyanda.