Covid-19 is here with us. With over one million infections and over 50,000 deaths worldwide, the reality cannot be more settling. When it started in China on December 2019, it was just ‘other news’. As am writing this, Covid-19 has made headlines throughout the world for more than two months now. The manner in which the virus is spreading is hard to fathom. It feels like nature is punishing us while it resets itself. Do you remember the wild fire in Australia? How about the Locusts (which am not even sure if they left/died or still with us)? I only remember them getting pregnant and almost dying according to our able Jubilee CS. Those calamities might have been warnings of what was yet to come.
What we have now is a pandemic. It is a disaster that has put our intelligence and technology to test. You see, we cannot bomb a virus. Neither can we use tankers and jet fighters to stop it. It has made the world stop. Even the biggest economies are shaken. In short, the virus is telling us to stay indoors and to keep social distance. In other sarcasm words, it has stopped reggae. It has stopped human activities and for once, the earth can breathe.
How has tourism been affected?
When it started, 2020 looked promising. We had travel plans for the year set out. Tours and travel companies had a travel calendar distributed to potential tourists. There were inbound tourists who had reserved for the peak season and accommodation (especially in Maasai Mara) was fully booked. Personally, I had a planned out year. I would have been travelling to Rwanda this Easter for a 6 days road trip. I had plans to travel to North Rift, Turkana, West Pokot, Loiyangalani, Lamu, Meru National park, and Victoria Falls in Zambia among others.
With Covid-19 halting these plans, am not sure, which destination will be lucky to have me or my clients in 2020. When the government banned social gatherings, hotels were hurt. Conferences and other meetings could not go on. Moreover, tourists were also scared enough to want to stay in a hotel. As a result, most (if not all) hotels have closed in Kenya until further notice; understandably so because of operation costs. In short, there is no travel and tourism going on in the world.
Tour operators and travel agents are currently jobless. In fact, if there were medical short courses that can be offered to them to help supplement the health workforce in the country, they would be readily available. I do not think there is a tours and travel company that is still operational at the moment. They have closed and laid off staff while others have proceeded to an unpaid leave until things get better. Tourism is a very sensitive industry. I hope people can be able to travel again soon after we manage the pandemic. I also hope that there will be political goodwill to enable the industry recover.
What is next for tourism?
For many, travel and tourism is leisure. As we know it, leisure is a tertiary human want. It is what comes after the basic needs are met. One needs a disposable income to be able to travel the world. This is with exemption of people who travel for business, work, medical and education. In my opinion, international travel will take almost a year after the pandemic to get back to normal. The culture of saving enables and sustains international travel. Covid-19 has made sure that people have become dependent on their savings. Therefore, it will take time to save again and be able to travel.
For domestic tourism, 3 months will be enough to get back on the road. This is because there are domestic packages that are cheap and affordable. I have said this, with assumption that those who have been sent on unpaid leave and those who have been laid off will be absorbed back as soon as the pandemic is over.
While we are in the centre of this pandemic, it is time for tourism stakeholders to brainstorm and chat a way of bouncing back to business. It is time to share ideas and experiences that can change the industry. It is time to be creative and innovative in terms of product development and service delivery. We should be able to come back with enticing packages and low prices so that our clients can be able to adjust and adapt comfortably. Destinations must be ready to offer low prices and great experiences to attract the domestic tourists. We all know that the power of referral remains with domestic tourists.
On its part, the government should set up a fund that will be able to do two things. One is to vigorously market Kenya locally and internationally to attract domestic and international market. And two, is to offer loans to tours and travel companies with low interest rates to help them bounce back within a short period of time. This is a sure bet to have the industry back to its feet soonest possible.
What can you do to support tourism?
There is no tourism without clients. As we are all in this together, it is important to support tours and travel companies get back to their feet. When we are back to work, do not hesitate to book that day trip, that overnight trip, that expedition, that safari or that beach getaway. The result of doing that is a vibrant tourism industry that will be able to offer you competitive packages, unique products, innovative itineraries and exposure of hidden gems. We will offer you flexible payment plans so that it becomes easier to afford a travel package. When jobless like this, we are taking time to think outside the box. This means that we will come back with products you cannot say no to. Our work is to make you happy and you can only be able to get happy when you travel with us.
I hope the government will do everything possible to stop the spread of Covid-19. As citizens, we should do our part, which is a simple four step practice, i.e. stay home, keep social distance, wash hands and wear a mask when necessary. When we combine efforts, we shall overcome. I would like to offer my condolences to all those who have succumbed to the virus and wish quick recovery to those already infected. I pray that you (yes, you reading this) will not get infected and if you are already, you will not die.
Let’s keep hope for a new dawn and a brighter tomorrow. For those, who do not travel or keep postponing plans, I hope you have learnt your lesson. The world can indeed come to a standstill. Live your life when you still can. Love yourself more and the most appropriate way to do that is to travel the world.
Let’s meet on the road soon. Keep hope alive and take care.
Until next time, #StayHome and #StaySafe………………..
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