Africa’s largest economies, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt have relatively been spared by the decline in tourism revenues despite the impact of the pandemic on other regions.
According to patital.com, after remarkable growth in recent years, the African tourism sector has been brutally hit by Covid-19. But the impact is not the same across the continent.
According to the latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the GDP of the “travel and tourism sector” accounted for 10.4% of international GDP in 2019, but this sector was worth just 5.5% of GDP in 2020.
Africa was not spared from this slump, with its GDP falling by -49% specifically on tourism and travel, domestic spending falling by -42.8%, and international spending experiencing a larger fall at -66.8%.
The end of a supergrowth
Since 1995, the tourism sector in Africa has continued to develop: the number of tourist arrivals in sub-Saharan Africa has doubled from 24 million in 2005 to 48 million in 2015 and is now over 56 million.
International Tourism, Number of Arrivals – Sub-Saharan Africa
Tourism sector growth slowed in 2019 compared to the exceptional rates of previous years, according to the UNWTO barometer.
However, before the Covid-19 crisis, the conclusions of the World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) estimated that Africa was the second region in the world where tourism sector growth was most important, right behind Asia-Peaceful.
As the latest World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) report shows, tourist arrivals in Africa fell by 12% in early 2020 and the tourism sector’s contribution to employment fell by 29.3% (i.e. 7.2 million fewer jobs compared to 2019). ).
Overall, the deficit for the sector would account for 70% of its turnover.
46% fewer tourists in Africa
In 2020, the continent welcomed 46% fewer tourists. Nigeria (-83%), Egypt (-75%) and Rwanda (-64%) are the countries in the Zone where the number of foreign visitors has fallen the most.
However, Egypt, the continent’s third most populous and wealthiest country, has been able to rely on its local tourism, which fell by just 32%, or 1.45 times less than the regional average.
South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized country with a robust healthcare system, has kept 68% of international arrivals on its soil thanks to much less restrictive measures during the pandemic.
Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria relatively spared
Africa’s largest economies are least affected by the decline in tourism revenues.
Although Egypt has lost 55% of its “Travel & Tourism” GDP, South Africa 49.8% and Nigeria 39.3%, the tourism industry accounts for less than 10% of their respective GDPs overall.
Measured by the number of jobs lost, the continent’s two main tourist hubs, Tunisia and Morocco, have suffered significantly from the effects of the pandemic.
These North African countries benefit from the largest number of tourism infrastructures and hotel complexes on the continent.
Thus, in 2019, the tourism sector as a whole (direct and indirect jobs) in Tunisia and Morocco employed 370,000 (i.e. 11% of total employment) and 1.35 million (12.3% of total employment) people respectively, compared to 260,000 (7.7% of total employment ) and 929,300 (8.7% of total employment) people in 2020.
However, Rwanda is hardest hit.
Between its promotional partnership with Paris Saint-Germain football club, heritage promotion campaigns that highlight green tourism and the construction of very luxurious complexes, Kigali is betting on the development of its tourism sector.
But as the WTTC report notes, the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions on local communities, wildlife and the environment has been “devastating” for the East African country.
In order to land in Senegal, travelers had to obtain a special permit: that was the coup de grace for vacation trips to the Sahel state. A total of 104,200 jobs were lost according to the same source (WTTC).
While Côte d’Ivoire was one of the most promising African countries in terms of its tourism activities according to “Hospitality Report Africa 2019” in 2019, 30.7% of workers in this sector had to change sectors.
Mixed projections from experts
According to the latest UNWTO figures, Africa received 81% fewer tourists in the first half of 2021 than in the same period of 2019, despite the easing of restrictions.
As for the near future, industry experts remain “mixed”.
As revealed by UNWTO’s October 4, 2021 report, only 31% of them expect better year-end results, and 45% believe it will be necessary to “wait until 2024 or later for international tourism to return to the pre-Covid level”.
According to the conclusions of the WTTC, better international and regional coordination will be needed to revitalize the tourism industry.