Africa’s travel and tourism sector in turmoil

Call for support from five international aviation and tourism authorities

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) have joined three aviation organisations to rally support for Africa’s travel and tourism division. The group are calling on foreign financial institutions, country development partners and international donors to support Africa’s tourism sector which employs 24.6 million people on the continent.

“Without urgent funding, the COVID-19 crisis could see a collapse of the sector in Africa, taking millions of jobs,” the collective said.

Africa’s travel and tourism sphere contributes more than 7% (US$169 billion) of the continent’s GDP.

Joining the WTTC and UNWTO in the rally cry is the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA).

The organisations are jointly calling on support for the sector through these tough times by providing:

  • $10 billion in relief to support the Travel & Tourism industry and help protect the livelihoods of those it supports directly and indirectly;
  • Access to as much grant-type financing and cash flow assistance as possible to inject liquidity and provide targeted support to severely impacted countries;
  • Financial measures that can help minimise disruptions to much-needed credit and liquidity for businesses. This includes the deferral of existing financial obligations or loan repayments; and,
  • Ensuring that all funds flow down immediately to save the businesses that need them urgently, with minimal application processes and without impediment from normal lending considerations such as creditworthiness.

Some African governments are trying to provide targeted and temporary support for hard-hit sectors such as travel and tourism. However, many countries lack the necessary resources to help the industry and these livelihoods through this crisis.

The WTTC says the situation is now critical. Airlines, hotels, guesthouses, lodges, restaurants, meeting venues and related businesses face mounting losses. Typically, travel and tourism comprise 80% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). To preserve cash, many have already begun laying off or placing staff on unpaid leave.

“The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is being felt across the whole travel and tourism value chain. The sector is particularly exposed with millions of livelihoods across the world, especially within vulnerable communities, supported by the sector. International financial support is key to ensuring that travel and tourism can lead to a wider economic and social recovery in these communities,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

“Airlines are at the core of the travel and tourism value chain that has created quality jobs for 24.6 million people in Africa. Their livelihoods are at risk. Containing the pandemic is the top priority. But without a lifeline of funding to keep the travel and tourism sector alive, the economic devastation of COVID-19 could take Africa’s development back a decade or more.”

“Financial relief today is a critical investment in Africa’s post-pandemic future for millions of Africans,” said IATA’s Director-General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.

Adds Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO: “The travel and tourism sector is in a fight for survival, with over 100 million jobs losses globally and nearly eight million in Africa alone due to the COVID-19 crisis. Travel and tourism is the backbone of many economies across Africa and its collapse will lead to hundreds of millions of livelihoods being impacted and enormous financial pressure for years to come.

“Now, more than ever, it is vital that governments work together on a global coordinated approach towards a swift recovery and ongoing support for travel and tourism. It is critical that the most vulnerable communities receive international help. The speed and strength with which the international community comes together and responds through international financial institutions, country development partners and international donors will be paramount to provide support to the many millions of people whose livelihoods are heavily dependent on our sector,” Guevara said.

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