The safari industry in southern and eastern Africa has gone over a precipice, dropping about 75% in revenues since March this year. The impact on tourism has been devastating with many safari operators in seven countries saying they have no business, cannot pay their staff, and do not expect conditions to change for the better until next year.
From a survey of 294 safari operators polled early in October, the tour booking website, safaribookings.com, established that 90% of respondents have lost between 75% and 80% of their business. This is the eighth survey since March and it confirmed the results of the previous seven, all indicating a massive decline in the industry.
A Tanzanian operator told safaribookings.com, "The tourism industry in this country employs so many people. Most, if not all, safari companies have no business. The staff cannot pay their rent or buy food, it is a very sad situation."
A Namibian operator said "All bookings for 2020 have been postponed to 2021. We have not received any new bookings for 2021."
In Kenya, it is a similar situation where several operators said they do not have a single confirmed booking for this year. This was also echoed by operators in Uganda.
Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda have reopened their borders for tourism. Except for Tanzania, these safari countries require proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within a couple of days before flying. Rwanda, Uganda and Namibia require additional testing upon arrival - a couple of days after arriving in the country or shortly before leaving the country.
Many operators believe that a vaccine is the key to a return to work for the industry, but a tour operator based in the US cautioned "It seemed that things were starting to turn around in August and September, but now this second wave in Europe and the US seems to have people rethinking their plans. It appears that we can't count on much of a recovery until there is a viable vaccine."
Collectively, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia have forfeited an estimated US$12.4 billion to US$15.5 billion in tourism receipts this year alone.
Commenting on the survey, safaribookings.com's owner, Jeroen Beekwilder said "Our rough estimation is that there are about 4000 safari tour operators in East and southern Africa. So far, the number of tour operators who participated in the surveys represents roughly 7% to 10% of the estimated total number of tour operators. A total of 1746 safari companies were invited to participate in the survey. The majority of them are based in Africa."
For this survey, 294 companies responded. The highest number of respondents was in the April survey when 443 participated. The trend throughout all eight surveys to date, is the same.