COVID-19 shouldn’t make you cancel your safari. I’ll give you 5 reasons why!
In this COVID-19 crisis, I send out my thoughts and prayers to everyone around the world. My words are few: We are currently experiencing changes at a pace we could never have imagined before, but I have a strong belief this will subside soon.
CNN last week amid fears stoked by the coronavirus shared a list of movies including 2011 film “Contagion” that seem to have foretold pandemics with potentially eerie similarities to recent events around the world today.
As COVID-19 (officially dubbed the novel coronavirus) becomes a true pandemic, this year of the mask is also upsetting the $8.8 trillion worth travel and tourism industry.
What we consider an unanticipated moment of viral madness is currently influencing travel advisories, forcing companies to cancel and/or postpone travel, delaying conferences and incredibly influencing traveler behavior; while also raising general anxiety.
Tourism trends today as one of the hardest-hit industries due to the coronavirus.
The World Travel and Tourism Council warns that the COVID-19 scare puts at least 50 million jobs worldwide in the travel and tourism industry at risk, which also includes many small businesses.
What looked to be a promising year with an industry enjoying its best January in a long time and Hotel occupancy rates looking better than usual, is now truly unprecedented!
We are, no doubt, in uncharted territory. The situation worries business owners who work in tourism.
The industry could be seeing the effects of this pandemic for months, if not years, to come. Actually some experts expect a full recovery by 2023, premised on how the travel and tourism industry recuperated from slumps in the past.
Experts are finding it tough to predict this rapidly changing landscape
Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics projects that the pandemic could result in a 9.1% fall in travel this year. This is the largest drop ever in the past 40 years.
97% of the calls that a tourism PR practitioner like myself receives from business owners, banks, media, and Government officials are directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Governor of the Bank of Uganda in a statement on Friday affirmed that Tourism, a major source of foreign exchange earnings is shrinking on account of declining demand, and expanding restrictions.
As Governments, Ministries and Trade Unions convene to discuss the key issues facing the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they must also ensure that small businesses are not overlooked as government relief is addressed.
We are experiencing how sensitive the tourism industry is. We knew about the vulnerability of individual destinations, but a worldwide impact like this was previously unthinkable!
We still aren’t sure when it will end
As experts from the World Health Organization find it hard to forecast when the virus will be contained, tourism professionals around the world have forecasted at least 10 months as a period for the industry to recover from one of the biggest hits in history.
With a few unclear estimates on when the situation will subside it would be premature to measure the total impact.
I told a researcher from Stanbic Bank on Thursday that calculating the full impact of COVID-19 on tourism will largely depend on how long the epidemic lasts and could still be exacerbated by recent restrictive measures, such as those taken by the Ugandan Government on travel from, to or through Category One Countries.
The United States of America projects that 8.2 million visitor arrivals that were forecasted for this year could be lost, a number much bigger than the huge slump in visitor numbers (7.7 million) in 2001 and 2002, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“At the end of the day, it will cost dozens of billions of euros. That’s how much we can expect,” said France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, giving the clearest picture yet on how much the crisis would cost the government.
As Governments commit to protecting their citizens from the worst health catastrophes of the pandemic, Tourism Boards around the world are striving to keep hope alive for businesses, local and international tourists as well as travel agents.
How some African countries are reacting
The Kenyan Government is suspending travel for all persons coming from any country with reported Coronavirus cases.
The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have both suspended gorilla trekking trips
South Africa imposed travel bans to and from high-risk source markets. Suspends South African Airways International Flights.
Uganda banned travel from or through highly affected countries but offered a window within which clients and travel agents could reschedule trips to dates in the future at no cost.
Indeed the fast spread of COVID-19 has unpredictably derailed businesses, communities, and livelihoods around the world. Will the travel and tourism industry look different or impact positively on the economy when the dust settles, when mobility is considered safe again?
Absolutely! And you have a very high stake in keeping it afloat.
Here are 5 reasons I highly recommend holding onto your booking and just change dates. 5 reasons you should use this episode of social distancing to still enjoy virtual tours, and live streams; read articles on holiday destinations that you’d like to visit in the future.
1- Help the travel & tourism industry recover. It needs you
It is obvious that globally the travel industry supports one in ten jobs and accounts for roughly 10 percent of the world’s GDP and is thus crucial to the economy. If the coronavirus pandemic lasts for more than a couple of months, there will be some layoffs within the industry. But when the crisis is over, I bet there will be a large build-up of travelers looking to make up for the lost time. I hope you will be one of those. You have the power to keep it alive by not canceling your safari.
2- Support Conservation & vulnerable communities
Since African trips are predominantly nature-based, a big percentage of the safari cost goes towards preserving the beautiful destinations and supporting communities that have lived around these wild places for centuries. Explorers of the past times made a contribution for us to enjoy these wildlands today. You have the power to keep them alive. Help the rhino numbers recover further, support the conservation efforts of CTPH in restoring the mountain gorilla population and other critically endangered species. Provide a livelihood for a vulnerable community by maintaining your booking.
3- Celebrate life with friends and family, something to look forward to
When this ugly scene is rolled away, we’d use a sundowner with drinks and snacks, a toast with friends and family to a beautiful future. Yes, what a stunning experience it will be to watch a leopard kill with your buddies when the bad says are now bygone! Keep your plans alive. Don’t make your family and friends regret you canceled their trip of a lifetime.
4- Participate in new beginnings
We love new things. Is it not fun being part of the most important statistics? Travel destinations around the world will most definitely put together the most amazing comeback holiday experiences for their first visitors. Well, I know you do not mind a little extra pampering and niceness. You know what to do. Postpone your safari, don’t cancel.
5- Saving on money, and being guaranteed of today’s rate
Fortunately, most businesses have already offered relaxed cancellation and reschedule policies for trips already booked. If you do not cancel today, for most trips planned, you will not have to pay extra fees for changing dates; whereas prices will most definitely have changed in the future when mobility is back to its peak should you decide to book afresh when the situation returns to normalcy. Just push the date ahead, it’s just not worth canceling now.
With all this said and done, remember to not panic. Protect yourself and those you love. Remain informed, as the coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a rapidly changing landscape. Keep an eye on trusted sources like the national Health Ministries, the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Big Elbowbump from me. “See you on safari soon, when real life is safe and does not feel like fleeing a safari jeep into a hungry pride of lions.”
Until then, I remain yours truly,
The Ugandan Tourist
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