Tourism is an important driver of economic growth around the world. The past decade has been one of the greatest for the global travel and tourism industry. In 2014, the industry provided about 277 million jobs and accounted for about 9.8 percent of global GDP.
By late 2019, the sector had accrued an annual average of no less than 1.5 billion people globally. China alone recorded 180 million outgoing tourist in 2019, up from 57 million in 2010 while Africa as a whole attracts 25 percent of the world’s total. Several African countries are dependent on tourism such as Morocco, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tunisia and Tanzania.
Blessed with beaches, cultural sites, and abundant wildlife, prior to the pandemic, Africa had the second-fasting growing tourism sector in the world. Tourism represents about 8.5 percent of Africa’s GDP and employs around 24 million people.
Between 2010 and 2018, the average share of employment in travel and tourism in total employment in Ethiopia was 8.4 percent. Kenya’s tourism sector pre-pandemic employed about 1 million workers, accounting for 9.2 percent of total workers. In Rwanda, tourism employs more than 3 percent of the labor force, including low-skilled workers. Ten million tourists visited South Africa in 2017, by far the most in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, there were an estimated 849,000 formal private sector jobs in tourism there, representing 5 percent of total employment. In Uganda, tourism firms employ a high share of youth in their total work force (47.5 percent).
However, Covid-19 has had a huge effect on African tourism, despite the fact that among the most dependent, are countries that have managed Covid-19 globally. For instance, 6 out of 10 most tourism dependent countries in Africa have recorded under 10,000 cases since the pandemic began. Seychelles has recorded just 38 Covid-19 deaths to date, Tanzania has 21 while Mauritius has 17.
Despite these achievements, their economies are suffering. In Seychelles, tourism revenue declined by 61 percent in 2020 and as a result the country’s 2021 budget has had to be slashed by 10 percent.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) indicates that international tourist arrivals to Africa decreased by 35% between January to April 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Countries such as Gambia, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya and a host of others that are heavily dependent on the expenditure of international tourists have witnessed dwindled injections of tourism-based foreign income.
As a result of the pandemic, tourism businesses are forced to close down, either as internal measures to help stop the spread of the virus or directly as a result of absence of tourists. Either way, closure of tourism businesses such as hotels, attractions, travel and tour services, food and beverage services and other supporting businesses have resulted in massive job losses across the industry in Africa. It has also resulted in the reduction of corporate and individual income tax revenue to African governments, thereby affecting their abilities to provide the required public services and infrastructure.
The recovery/revival of the industry will depend on the progress of Covid 19 vaccination in African countries, capacity building in the tourism sector , coordination within the tourism industry, embracing technology to boost tourism such as the use of Apps, conservation of the environment as stated by Mrs Fotabong, Director of Programmes Innovation and Planning at the African Union Development Agency.
Also, African nations through their national tourism organisation can bundle tourism products to reduce the cost of travel. This will compel tourists to visit many attractions and stay longer, thereby spending more at destinations. Furthermore, tourism facilities can also offer discounts or complementary services to attract customers, especially domestic tourists at the initial stages of re-opening.
In conclusion, tax exemptions can be offered to tourism businesses to help them recover from the consequences of the pandemic and grow in the short term.