white and dry season for Africa due to Covid-19


The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) announces a 74% drop in tourism worldwide in 2020, or 1,000 billion euros in global losses. Egypt, Morocco, South Africa… the main African destinations are suffering.

Africa lost 70% of arrivals in 2020, according to the latest UNWTO barometer, like Europe and the Americas (-69%). Losses are lower than in the Middle East (-75%) and Asia-Pacific (-84%). But if we look at the national figures of the main African destinations, the disaster seems severe. The decline goes from -78% in Morocco to -91% in Egypt and -90% in South Africa over various periods of the year 2020. The reopening of the borders after the first containment measures did nothing.

In Egypt, tourism had finally regained its form, lost since the revolution of 2011. With 13.6 million visitors in 2019, the country was back on top, as the first African destination. It only counted 3.5 million in 2020, a decrease of 74.3%. Revenue plunged 70%, from $ 13 billion to $ 4 billion between 2019 and 2020.

Covid tests on arrival and slashed prices in Egypt

The sector, which represents 12% of GDP and employment, was all the more hit in 2020 as the country was among the most affected by Covid-19 in Africa. The borders, closed in March, reopened in July, but only 400,000 visitors arrived between July and November, according to Khaled Al-Anani, the tourism minister. That is 90% less than in the same period in 2019. A fall with enormous economic consequences. ” We had a few people over the holidays, but in all of 2020, I only really worked in February Says Mohamed, a taxi from the resort town of Hurghada. A situation which encourages it to increase its prices, for lack of any state aid to cope with the crisis.

As for hotels, it is rather the big clearance sale. The bedroom at Luxor’s mythical Winter Palace, a 1900s palace where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile, is sold off at 43 euros per night, breakfast included, or three times less than before the crisis. Occupancy rates remain below 30%, even with domestic tourism. The authorities’ decision to allow foreigners to take a Covid test upon entering the territory, even if it means being placed in quarantine for fourteen days at the hotel in the event of a positive result, has not changed the trends.

Only a few intrepid people try their luck, like this British student who is delighted to have access, in Luxor, to what has become a luxury in Europe: “ Being able to sit on the terrace of a cafe and watch the world go by “. Janet, an English retiree, doesn’t think of going home before spring. After a month spent in Luxor, she will go to finish the winter in Morocco, where the prices are ” ridiculously low She smiles.

► Also to listen: In Egypt, the tourism crisis in Luxor

Small hotels closed in Morocco

The Cherifian kingdom, Africa’s second destination with 12.9 million visitors in 2019, lost in 2020 one of the reactors of its economy. Tourism, 11% of GDP in 2019, is the leading provider of jobs (25% of the workforce). In April, the kingdom was counting on a fall of 39%, ultimately twice as strong as expected: -78% of arrivals from January to the end of October 2020, according to the Minister of Tourism, with a drop in foreign exchange earnings of -63 %, and 35% of employees in the sector laid off, according to the Ministry of Finance.

The borders reopened in September, but attendance has not really recovered. Mostafa owns a charming hotel in the Dades gorges, Dar Jnan Tirioua, closed since March 2020. He is taking advantage of the crisis to do extension work and provide his casbah with a suite, hoping that business resumes at the end of 2021. In Marrakech, high-end hotels had customers during the end of year celebrations, but the hotels in the ocher city were only filled between 20% and 30%, penalized by cancellations cascading after the introduction of a 9 p.m. curfew.

Unemployment on the rise in South Africa

In South Africa, 10.23 million visitors in 2019, it is the same disaster as in Egypt. Tourism represents 2.9% of GDP directly, and 8.6% indirectly. The great holidays of the southern summer, in December, usually fill the seaside resorts of Cape Town and Durban. This year, domestic tourism did not save the day. In Durban, the Hilton suspended operations in January.

Closed in March 2020, the borders reopened on October 1, but the appearance of a South African variant of Covid-19 discouraged foreigners at the end of the year.

Down 10% between January and March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, tourism was only expected to decline by 40% in 2020 with 6.1 million visitors expected, according to government projections in April. Finally, the damage is much greater: the drop observed for the month of October 2020 alone is -91% of arrivals compared to the same period in 2019, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The overall statistics, month by month, too discouraging, have not been published since March 2020 by SA Tourism.

Andile, a bartender at One & Only, a five-star beachfront hotel in Cape Town, was fired in April. ” I spend my time running to give my CV here and there, but there is no more work », He testifies. He was among the 1.8 million workers to receive unemployment benefits in 2020. A structural scourge in South Africa, unemployment fell from 23.3% to 30.8% of active people seeking employment between the first two quarters of 2020 – 43% of the working population, if we take into account those who have given up looking for work.

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