At the start of COVID-19 pandemic, UNWTO research down by region found that 83% of destinations in Europe introduced complete closure of borders for international tourism.
In the Americas, this proportion stood at 80%, in Asia and the Pacific it stood at 70%, the Middle East was 62% and in Africa 57%.
With the gradual restrictions taking place globally, many destinations are reopening up. President Nana Akufo-Addo has announced measures to ease restrictions on public gatherings in the country and the tourism industry was not left out.
“In here, I refer to the suspension of sporting events, night clubs, cinemas, drinking spots, bars, beaches, festivals, funerals, political rallies and large religious gatherings such as crusades and conventions”. There was good news for some whiles others who were hopeful for the rebound of their business were left blue most especially operators of drinking bars and beaches.
Whiles most of the developed world are opening their beaches, I felt government would have considered opening up beaches whiles social distancing and other protocols are adhered to. The leaving out of sporting events and bars was also a bit of a surprise to me. This is because the new normal across the football world is to play without spectators or with limited spectators.
Obviously, the movement of the footballers and other officials and in case of the limited spectators would lead to some business for hoteliers and if the bars were to remain opened, the winning team would rejoice whiles entertaining themselves contributing to some business and survival of those operators. The tourism income multiplier is very much needed to the national economy.
This multiplier effect goes a long way to ensure more economic gains to the economy. The same effects apply to beaches. The GTA earlier considerations in issuing their statement on the reopening of some of these facilities might have been taken with the economic considerations as well as the survival of these businesses. Let’s not forget that the supply chain goes a long way to also benefit taxi driver, uber drivers and the likes. However, The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture moved swiftly to cancel their move.
For now, the decision has been made and we look forward to the future and hopefully operators of these business will soon smile. It was however good news for operators of conferences, weddings and so on whose activities could help support hotels with their resumptions. Our borders still remain close and we with the resumption of conferences, a look at intra-regional conferencing i.e. attracting conferences from the sub-region would be a plus. With hotels looking for a quick recovery, tourists attending conferences from the sub-ECOWAS region will benefit them tremendously. Thus, the longer the borders remain close and with limited available flights the economic gains could delay further.
For now, they need to wait for another month and hope government considers the economic benefits of regional conferencing. What remains certain is that the COVID-19 protocols have come to stay as long as the spread continues thus, we need to also have a balance between containing the spread and the survival of businesses within the tourism industry and beyond.
ECOWAS must come in and consider appealing to all countries for a quick reopening of our borders whiles strict protocols are observed. Europe is opening from the middle of June thereafter, therefore we need to also follow suit most especially the sub-region.
What is happening in other countries on the African continent?
Despite many countries around the world preparing to open their borders to tourists, those wanting to travel to South Africa will have to be patient, after it emerged that the South African government isn’t planning on opening to tourism until next year.
The South African government announced a phased reopening of tourism, further easing COVID-19 restrictions starting from June 1. “Based on the COVID-19 epidemic expected trajectory, the first phase of the recovery for the sector will be driven by domestic tourism, followed by regional tourism and international tourism next year,” Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said.
Kenya’s cabinet secretary for tourism and wildlife Najib Balala chaired a meeting with major tourism stakeholders and ministry of health officials to outline modalities for the easing of restrictions/opening of businesses in the sector. The meeting focused on ways of coming up with structured ways of gradual reopening tourism establishments. Below are guidelines they listed which we can compare with ours.
GUIDELINES ON GRADUAL REOPENING OF TOURISM ESTABLISHMENTS
- It was resolved that every restaurant or eatery seeking reopening to access the protocols as published by the Ministry of Health and comply with them.
- Each establishment should have its own individual standard operating procedures to guide compliance (health.go.ke).
- Restaurants and eateries and their associations to ensure that they mobilize their businesses, employees and guests to comply with public health guidelines in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
- The cost of COVID-19 testing will be Kshs.l,000 per person.
- There will be no charges for inspection of compliance for existing restaurants and eateries.
- There will be no charges on the compliance permit issued upon inspection for reopening.
- The inspection will be conducted within 24 hours of submitted applications that have fulfilled all the requirements.
The cabinet secretary further formed a committee that will be looking at the submissions. The task force team that comprises of tourism stakeholders will oversee:
- Implementation of published protocols on restaurants and eateries
- Proposals on protocols for reopening of hospitality
The team will meet within a week to finalize on the consultations. It was further reiterated that only restaurants and not hotels in the country have been allowed to reopen after following the laid down requirements. The National Emergency Response approved the reopening of restaurants between 5am to 4pm daily with diners maintaining a distance of four each per 10 square meters. (Eastafricavoyages)
Government has prioritized reviving the country’s tourism sector as the gradual reopening of the economy continues after a virus lockdown. The office of the president said in a social media post: “In order to revive Botswana’s tourism sector Government shall accelerate the initiatives aimed at stimulating local and regional tourism by creating an enabling environment for increased investment in the tourism sector and facilitate in particular citizen participation.”The statement said the areas of agro tourism and land tourism will also be identified and made available for citizens.
After being shut down for nearly two months, Egypt has started to reopen. It’s starting by opening its hotels to domestic tourists under the strict condition that they cannot operate at more than 25% capacity until the end of May and can increase to 50% capacity on June 1. Reuters also reported that hotels must implement new health measures, there must be a clinic with a resident doctor to regularly screen temperatures and disinfectant equipment must be installed, among other precautionary measures.
International flights will remain suspended, but Tourism Minister Khaled al Anani told Arab Media that domestic air traffic would resume between certain cities in the near future, and that there have been discussions with certain countries about eventually resuming international flights to Egypt. He also added that every other seat on domestic flights would be left empty. It’s been estimated that Egypt has and will continue to lose 1 billion tourism dollars for each month that it’s closed.
The Maldives offer white-sand beaches, crystal-clear water and luxury resorts with overwater bungalows such as the Four Seasons Resort Maldives Laadaa Giraavaru. This aspirational vacation destination has been heavily affected by coronavirus shutdowns. Travelers are not permitted within the country at this time. Maldives suspended all visas on arrival until further notice back on March 27. There are reports that the country will reopen on 1 July, though there are some strict requirements for visitors, such as a minimum stay of 14 nights.
This island nation remains off-limits to tourists. There is a total ban on travelers and no sign of that being eased anytime soon.
Namibia entered its second phase of reopening allowing domestic travel to resume. Many businesses will also be allowed to reopen under new health measures, including shopping malls, retail stores, restaurants, hairdressers and barbers. This phase is expected to last until June 1, when the government will reassess and potentially enter a third phase. Until then, foreign visitors will continue to be banned. It’s important to understand what measures are happening globally since the world is today a global village and we also need to move with happenings around the world. We continue to explore the changes a post COVID-19 is bringing to our industry in our next article. Until then stay blessed and safe ensuring all the protocols.
Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visit our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations.