The COVID-19 virus outbreak was first reported in Wuhan City of Hubei province in China in November 2019 and spread across the world like bush fire.
After World War II, the COVID-19 pandemic has been seen as the most challenging tragedy on global scale.
In 2020, travel restrictions were instituted by countries around the world to curb the spread of the virus. The impact was brutal on the tourism sector in Kenya and internationally.
Research shows that global tourist arrivals dropped between 20% to 30% when compared to the original 2020 forecast estimated at 1,460 million arrivals. This means that the number of international tourist arrivals dropped between 1,170 and 1,020 million in 2020 due to coronavirus.
The shockwaves of the pandemic were felt across other sectors in the tourism business. Hotels were shut, airlines grounded, tour and travel firms closed. This shutdown left thousands of employees jobless including hoteliers, tour guides, drivers and local curio shop owners.
In 2019, global travel and tourism contributed an estimated $8.9 trillion to the world’s GDP. A sizable chunk of this amount was lost in 2020 due to the pandemic.
To mention a few examples, the USA suffered the biggest loss in tourism revenue of $147,245 million from January to October 2020.
in 2020, Spain received fewer than 20 million annual visitors which is said to be the lowest number in 50 years hence a revenue loss of $46,707 million.
Impact of COVID-19 on Kenya tourism Sector
Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife statistics indicate that the country is the third-largest travel and tourism economy in Africa after South Africa and Nigeria. Indeed, this sector is a major employer because it has inter-industry linkages with other sectors such as energy, agriculture and manufacturing.
In 2019, over two million international visitors arrived in Kenya which was 1.2% more than 2018 arrivals. Last year, while the first two months had started well with 170,908 arrivals in January, 150,968 in February and 67,819 in March, the tourism industry shut down in April after the suspension of international flights.
Tourism Research Institute (TRI) data indicates that there were zero arrivals in April, May, June and July. A few visitors started to arrive in August. “The sector hence lost over 110bn Kenyan shillings [$1bn, £738m] of direct international tourists’ revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic”, reported Kenya’s Tourism Research Institute.
It was bad. Even the Kenya Tourism Federation chairman Mr. Mohammed Hersi felt the hit. He said that there was no tourism.
Nonetheless, Hasnain Noorani, managing director of PrideInn Group was recently quoted saying “We are very optimistic about the year 2021. We have started receiving a number of conference inquiries across our eight hotels in Kenya. People have realised that business has to go on despite the challenges we are facing.”
Recently, Kenya’s Tourism and Wildlife Ministry appointed British supermodel Naomi Campbell to become an ambassador for the industry. The model, among other things, will help promote and market Kenya as an ideal tourism and travel destination.
Najib Balala the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife supported her appointment saying he welcomes the exciting news that Naomi Campbell will advocate for tourism and travel internationally for the magical Kenya brand.
There is hope for the sector despite the devastating impact of the pandemic in 2020. The UNWTO Panel of Experts said the likely time for recovery of international demand may be in 2021.