Africa’s wildlife tourism industry, which usually generates $29bn (about R480bn) a year and employs 3.6-million people, is under threat as the coronavirus has brought leisure travel to a near halt, a report published in Nature Ecology & Evolution said.
Many wildlife-protection services will struggle without money from safaris and hunting, according to research by scientists from various universities ranging from SA to the US. Hardest hit will be countries that boast the Big Five — elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros — such as Kenya, Zimbabwe and SA.
Others like Uganda, where gorillas are a drawcard, will also suffer, the study shows. “Tourism helps governments justify protecting wildlife habitat,” the scientists said.
“It creates revenue for state wildlife authorities, generates foreign-exchange earnings, diversifies and strengthens local economies.”
About 50%, or $30m, of the Kenya Wildlife Service’s annual budget comes from tourism, while that figure is 80% in Zimbabwe and the same percentage, or $52m, in SA. Half of the budget of the Uganda Wildlife Authority is from tourism to view the mountain gorillas.
“The crisis demands a concerted international effort to protect and support Africa’s wildlife and wildlands and people that are dependent on them,” the report said.
Tourism operators in Botswana fear there will be zero international business for the rest of 2020.
While that remains the case, economies of places such as Maun and Kasane will be adversely affected as hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related economic activities will remain closed or operating at very low levels of capacity utilisation.
The Covid19 impact has a potential to lead to a mass migration as people look for jobs elsewhere in the country, and need support from social welfare programmes.
As a possibility to exploit the potential of Botswana in a post-COVID-19 world, the governments’ 2020-2023 Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP) considers to allow only international tourists with Covid19 negative status to boost the country’s tourism sector.