The East African region lost more than $4.8 billion and two million jobs in the tourism sector in 2020 due to the pandemic, according to a new report.
The August report titled "EABC Studies on Impact of Covid-19 on Selected Sectors: Tourism & Hospitality Industry; Light Manufacturing Sector and Agriculture & Food Security" found that 4.2 million foreign tourists were not able to travel to their preferred East African Community destinations.
The impact has also been felt across affiliated industries and other sectors of the economy. Tourism is one of the leading foreign-exchange earners and fastest-growing sectors in the EAC.
“It is estimated that tourism jobs in the region dropped from about 4.1 million to 2.2 million,” said John Bosco Kalisa, EABC chief executive officer, adding, “Visitors to national parks declined significantly by about 65 percent and, therefore, negatively affected wildlife conservation efforts in the region.”
The majority of the tourists originate from Europe, the USA and parts of Asia.
The study also shows that bed occupancy in hotels significantly dropped during the pandemic.
“The study found that hotels in the region registered average occupancy rates of below 30,” said Mr Kalisa.
The study was carried out by the EABC with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the African Economic Research.
The study said 26.5 percent of businesses lost their entire projected revenues during the pandemic period; 44 percent lost 75 percent; 17.6 percent lost 50 percent of their projected revenues.
The private sector wants governments to create affordable loan schemes to support the tourist sector. The study also recommends a review of the tourism regulatory framework to accommodate working from home and use of digital platforms among others.