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Impact of Covid 19 on tourism

At the beginning of the year 2020, the tourism sector was set for a very lucrative year. The Kenyan tourism industry was projected to rake in billions of dollars in profits. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis in the tourism industry and the economy all over the world due to the immediate and immense shock to the sector. The Ministry of Health (MoH) announced the first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kenya on 13th March 2020. As a result of the pandemic, many countries and regions imposed quarantines, entry bans, or other restrictions for citizens or recent travelers to the most affected areas.

The Kenyan government just like other countries affected by the coronavirus disease announced a raft of measures meant to contain the spread of the deadly disease. The impact on the tourism industry was exacerbated by restrictive measures such as the lockdown of countries, travel restrictions example air travel coming to an unprecedented halt, and stay at home orders. These measures have prompted the economic impact to be way more significant affecting a lot of different industries and the tourism sector was not spared. Airlines, cruise ships, museums, sports venues, the hotel industry, safaris, and wildlife parks have all been greatly affected by government measures. The tourism industry accounts for 10% of the world’s GDP and jobs.

Tourism in the African continent has always relied on international travelers, but a lethal combination of national lockdowns, a small local customer base, and travel restrictions was threatening to push Africa’s tourism sector to the verge of collapse. The number of travelers started to reduce at the beginning of the pandemic as workers were told to work from home. Conservation efforts across Africa were also suffering. The Uganda Wildlife Conservation Center traditionally draws visitors eager to see its lions, giraffes, white rhinos, and chimpanzees. The facility holds more than 291 individual animals from 52 species, all of which need to be feed and get veterinary care which comes from the money collected as gate fees charged to see the animals.

However, It is not all gloom and doom, as there is a glimmer of hope. The pandemic is reportedly under control in China (where the pandemic began) and restrictions are being lifted and the tourism industry and the economy are showing early signs of recovery. Hotel bookings in China increased by 40% in the first week of March and the peak flights rose by 230% from the previous month. Recovery is expected to start later and be slower than previously foreseen. Travel restrictions and containment measures are expected to be lifted gradually meaning that tourism recovery will take some time.

The reality is that global tourism will be hard hit throughout 2020 and beyond even if the spread of the virus is brought under control in the coming months. However there is hope for the tourism sector due to the new approach to increase domestic tourism to a sustainable level since this is an area of untapped potential. The tourism industry has always been resilient in the face of adversity for example in the events of terrorism, airplane crashes, and natural disasters. There is always light at the end of the tunnel and we can still hope we can achieve something positive at the end of the pandemic.

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