It is estimated that tourism jobs lost in the East African region dropped from 4.1 million to 2.2 million, (46%) according to a new report published by the East African Business Council (EABC). This is attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic that has hit the sector for nearly two years now.
The study highlighted that more than $4.8 billion revenue was lost, mainly because 4.2 million foreign tourists were not able to travel to their preferred East African Community destinations.
The report dubbed "EABC Studies on Impact of Covid-19 on Selected Sectors: Tourism & Hospitality Industry; Light Manufacturing Sector and Agriculture & Food Security" also noted that hotels in the region registered average occupancy rates of below 30.
The impact has also been felt across affiliated industries and other sectors of the economy, said John Bosco Kalisa EABC chief executive officer commenting on the findings.
Tourism is one of the leading foreign-exchange earners and fastest-growing sectors in the EAC.
"Visitors to national parks declined significantly by about 65 per cent and, therefore, negatively affected wildlife conservation efforts in the region," Kalisa added.
The majority of the tourists originate from Europe, the USA and parts of Asia.
The agency also showed that 26.5 per cent of businesses lost their entire projected revenues during the pandemic period; 44 per cent lost 75 per cent; 17.6 per cent lost 50 per cent of their projected revenues.
What should be done?
According to the study, private sector operators want governments to create affordable loan schemes to support the tourist sector.
Most hotels have fallen short of the crisis mainly due to the issue of non-performing loans, according to lenders.
Experts also recommend that a review of the tourism regulatory framework to accommodate working from home and use of digital platforms among others.
It is estimated that a total of $57.8 million, is needed to implement the sector's recovery plan.
The plan, as indicated earlier, is structured into six pillars each with a number of interventions that will be implemented within the immediate and short terms to ensure quick recovery of the sector in the region.
They include, managing the crisis, product and market development, development of tourism and hospitality standards.
Others are human capital development, tourism research and statistics, and environmental sustainability of the sector.
In Rwanda, an economic recovery fund has been introduced where government availed up to Rwf350 billion to support the recovery of businesses severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and among the priority sector include the tourism and hospitality sectors.