#ATTS2021: Despite Covid-19, tenacious Africa is open for business

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With the third wave of the Coronavirus waning in Africa, the time is right for Africa’s tourism industry to make a comeback and there is no better way than to start with Africa’s Travel and Tourism Summit.

The Summit opened on Monday, 20th September 2021 with delegates and speakers joining both physically and virtually from Johannesburg, Durban and Lagos.

Speaking at the COVID-19 Snapshot, Director-General of Tourism Victor Tharage said that scenario-based planning is crucial to mitigating the impact of unforeseen destabilising events. “You need a countrywide risk management plan that kicks in. You must imagine these eventualities, and draw multiple plans you can draw on all the time. Your solutions must not be data-based but data informed that could take you into the future.”

Statistically, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly dented the tourism industry in Africa. According to Statistics South Africa, all ten leading SADC countries have shown a decrease in inbound tourist numbers from 2019 to 2020. Botswana had the largest percentage decrease of 80.6%.

Outside of SADC, Côte d’Ivoire had the largest percentage decrease at 77.4%. Domestic tourists in Kenya cut their holiday expenditures by 37.5 percent in 2020 amidst massive job losses and pay cuts due to the pandemic.

It is estimated that tourism jobs in the East African region dropped by 46%, from 4.1 million to 2.2 million, according to a new report published by the East African Business Council. It is estimated that a total of $57.8 million (R857-million) is needed to implement the East African tourism sector’s recovery plan.

Senior Researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Dr. Ridhwaan Suliman, said that Africa has only administered approximately 129-million vaccines, just 2.2 percent of the 5.9-billion administered worldwide. “The good news is that South Africa and neighbouring countries are looking towards the end of the third wave, having surpassed the more severe phase. But the likelihood is South Africa will experience a fourth and fifth resurgence and we will need to take the scenario into account for planning. The country is many months behind high-income countries and will have to find ways of dealing with possible resurgences.”

Toby Berger, the Director of Travel of Singapore-based digital identity solutions company Affinidi, said that vaccination certificates with an embedded QR code can help governments prevent production of fraudulent paperwork. “Usually when you get a vaccine you get a piece of paper and show it to someone. There is nothing on a vaccine that enables tamper proofing. You can photocopy it. New standards look like QR codes so all information is embedded in this code. Companies like Affinidi have the keys to unlock the information in those QR codes.”

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