Photo: Judy Kepher-Gona and Marina Novelli during their first collaboration on assessing the impact of travel philanthropy at Basecamp Masai Mara in 2011.
According to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (2020), it is expected that the crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60% and 80% when compared with 2019 figures. This places millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand according to the UNWTO Panel of Experts survey. The majority expects to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021. Based on previous crises, leisure travel is expected to recover quicker, particularly travel for visiting friends and relatives, than business travel. The estimates regarding the recovery of international travel is more positive in Africa and the Middle East with most experts foreseeing recovery still in 2020.”
For most countries, travel restrictions had already brought tourism to a ‘ground zero’ in less than 4 months, since February 2020. Nations, global tourism agencies, academia, destination markets, tourism businesses are all working together to try and frame this crisis, analyse its impacts and forecast what the ‘new normal’ will be for tourism. What is commonly acknowledged is that tourism will not emerge from the COVID-19 induced crisis in the same way it was before its outbreak.
In Africa, numerous analysis (WTTC, 2020, UNWTO) led to the establishment of a number of action-oriented groups, which strongly believe that creative solutions are needed to address this crisis. Remaining as passive bystanders is not an option and proactive, innovative and achievable macro and micro interventions are critical to tourism recovery in the region.
Born out of a shared commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism development in Africa, Sustainable Travel and Tourism Association – Kenya (led by Judy Kepher-Gona) have joined forces with the University of Brighton’s Responsible Futures Agenda (led by Prof. Marina Novelli) and the University’s Centre for Change, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management (CENTRIM, led by Dr George Tsekouras) and sustainable tourism expert Adam Jones (University of Brighton) on an initiative called “Responding to COVID19- SME Stabilisation and Acceleration Program in Kenya”. With the aim of assessing the extent of the risk and sustainability of SMEs and support them in managing the COVID19 turbulence, the project ultimate purpose is to find ways to stabilize the situation and contribute to reigniting tourism in a sustainable fashion.
The project includes research to fully assess best practices in addressing the COVID19 induced tourism crisis and webinar training sessions to support SMEs at such an unprecedent difficult time. While the broader initiative remains part of STTA programme of local interventions, primarily targeting tourism SMEs in Kenya, the University of Brighton will be supporting STTA with a targeted financial and staff time in-kind contribution in the delivery of: a. Three Webinar Training Sessions; b. Focused research – designing data collection tools aimed at gathering information on risks facing SMEs and possible innovative ways forward as per identified local needs; and c. Mutually beneficial peer-to-peer mentorship/coaching activities.
Judy Kepher Gona (STTA) said: “At STTA, our mission is to contribute to modelling a sustainable future for Africa’s tourism. Our approach to addressing this very challenging mission has been to create diverse spaces of engagement with different interest and stakeholder groups in tourism. This partnership with University of Brighton is timely, as it strengthens our work with SMEs, a group that is most vulnerable during crisis, but often faceless in tourism economic data and planning. In line with our shared value of “leaving no one behind, this partnership will lay a foundation for resetting the place of SMEs in the tourism value chain.”
Prof. Novelli (UoB) said: “At the University of Brighton, we are delighted to partner with STTA in addressing the challenges posed by the COVID19 pandemic on the tourism sector and particularly on the SMEs of Kenya. This is undoubtedly the consolidation of a long-lasting professional collaboration, which started with research conducted in Masai Mara, Kenya in 2011. Based on our shared commitment towards sustainable tourism in Africa, we believe that this historical moment is giving us the opportunity to reflect, reset and change for the better. For many years, both STTA and UoB have been advocating for a more sustainable sector and this initiative will give us the opportunity to strengthen our actions though an empirically grounded, proactive and responsible set of activities and pilot innovative ways to move in the right direction in Kenya and in other parts of the African continent in the future.”