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When Will Tourists Return to Africa?

Local tourists are seen during an adventure e-bike tour, run by tour operator Raino Bolz, on the Boschendal Estate near, Cape Town South Africa, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020.
When Will Tourists Return to Africa?
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Raino Bolz usually makes a living from his tourism business in South Africa’s wine country. But the coronavirus health crisis has forced him to find another way to earn money. So he sold one of his tourism vehicles and bought a group of pregnant cows.

He will have to wait for the cows to give birth and for the calves to be old enough to sell before he can make money from them. That probably will not happen until early next year.

Bolz hopes to see a return of some tourists in November, the start of South Africa’s tourism season. He makes 80 percent of his money from foreign visitors. If those visitors do not come, he will need the profit from his cattle to keep his business in operation.

The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that the lack of tourism will cause Africa to lose between $53 billion and $120 billion in 2020.

Kenya expects at least a 60 percent drop in money from tourism this year. South Africa expects a 75 percent drop.

In South Africa, the Tourism Business Council estimates 1.2 million tourism-related jobs are already affected. That is about 10 percent of total jobs in Africa’s most developed economy. South Africa’s borders have been closed for nearly six months and there are no signs of them reopening.

COVID-19 restrictions have put a stop to the biggest part of African tourism - the safari. Safaris are trips to see or hunt animals.

James Wilson is the marketing director for Desert and Delta. For nearly 40 years, Desert and Delta has sold safaris in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. Wilson says that the company’s clients have always been from North America or Western Europe. They are usually wealthy, retired and almost always over 60 years old. He worries that those retirees will be the last to come back because of their age and risk of infection from COVID-19.

Elephants are seen in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Africa's tourism sector is struggling to cope with the drop in international travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elephants are seen in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Africa's tourism sector is struggling to cope with the drop in international travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jillian Blackbeard is the chief executive officer of a tourism association that represents safari operators in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

She said it will take southern Africa’s safari tourism three years to recover. But Blackbeard says the COVID-19 health crisis may provide a chance for the African tourism industry to reach different kinds of people. She hopes to attract their own African tourists, as well as people from Asia and North American minority groups.

Graham Wood is chief operating officer for hospitality for Sun International. The company owns many casinos, vacation areas and costly hotels in South Africa and several other African countries. So far, Sun International has kept its 8,500 employees, but on reduced wages. Wood said the company is now “having to consider quite severe restructures.”

Wood does expect an increase in domestic tourism at the end of the year from South Africans who are not traveling internationally. Domestic tourism did increase last month when South Africa eased restrictions to permit travel within the country for the first time since late March. But the international tourist season this year is “not going to materialize,” Wood said.

That will be ruinous for Raino Bolz. His attempts to appeal to locals have not had much success.

His adventure tourism company combines hiking and cycling with wine-tasting tours in the mountains of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town. He hopes that his foreign clients are willing enough to come back sometime during the season. He will only really know early next year.

And Bolz will only know then if he can re-employ all his tour guides. They are experts in wine and the natural environment of the Stellenbosch mountains.

Bolz said, “We can only do proper business once international borders open again.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Gerald Imray reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

casinon. a building or room that has games such as roulette or blackjack for gambling

clientn. a person who pays a professional person or organization for services

domesticadj. of, relating to, or made in your own country

hospitalityn. the activity of providing food, drinks, etc. for people who are the guests or customers of an organization

materializev. to begin to happen or exist; to occur or become real

properadj. correct according to social or moral rules; exactly correct

quiteadv. to a very noticeable degree or extent

tourismn. the business of providing hotels, restaurants, entertainment, etc., for people who are traveling