Reboot of tourism to pre-Covid levels highly unlikely, says report

Italian investors and tourists at Moi International Airport. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The possibility of Kenya reviving its tourism sector this year to pre-Covid heights is "highly unlikely", a new global report has shown.

According to Economist Intelligence Unit report, Kenya is one of the countries that will be "desperately" attempting to revive the tourism sector to 2019 levels this year.

The report says it will be an uphill task for these select African nations to navigate their tourism sectors through the Delta and Omicron variants of the Covid-19 virus.

It however notes that prospects for the travel and tourism sector in some African countries could begin to improve this year. “…although a return to pre-pandemic levels of business activity looks highly unlikely across all of Africa’s tourism hotspots,” the report shared January 12, 2022 said.

Kenya, Tanzania, Tunisia, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, and Morocco are among the countries whose efforts to reboot tourism may not get the sectors back to their feet.

The report values Kenya’s tourism market at Sh113 billion ($1 billion) as of 2019. It says governments in select African countries are investing heavily to boost the prospects for their tourism industries with an eye on securing a partial rebound in 2022 and a much stronger recovery in 2023.

“The immediate future for travel and tourism will rely heavily on the success of vaccination programmes and economic recoveries in Africa’s major tourism markets in Europe and Asia,” it reads.

The report points out leisure travel as the more likely sub-sector of travel that will recover faster compared to business travel as the latter has an alternative of online networks, remote working hence reducing the need and desire for non-essential international travel.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows arrivals through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi International Airport hit 525,728 visitors by October 2021, compared to 356,508 in the previous year.

The report foresees successive waves of infection ebbing across the continent with risks associated with public health crises elevated by low vaccine rollout across the continent. “By mid-December 2021, only a handful of African States had fully or partially vaccinated more than 40 per cent of their populations,” the report notes.

Kenya is one of the countries listed in the report with a vaccination rate of less than 15 per cent. Others are Ethiopia, Ghana, the DRC and Nigeria.

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