Stats: Nine in 10 Safari Operators’ Business Is Down by 75% or More, an online marketplace for African safari tours, recently ran its sixth monthly survey among safari tour operators. The survey’s aim was to acquire a detailed understanding of the affect in the safari industry from the downturn in travel associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The results were in line with the previous five surveys: An overwhelming number of tour operators (91.3 percent) are suffering from a decline in bookings of at least 75 percent.

An additional 3.8 percent say their business has seen at least a 50 percent decrease in actual bookings. These figures have remained largely steady since April, although it has shrunk by just a few percentage points. Just 1.5 percent said there has been “no change.”

As one operator said, “The impact of the virus is global and has been devastating for many people. Of course, the safari business in Tanzania is no exception. We have seen a decrease of more than 90 percent in bookings and requests, and we have been closed for more than four months now.” And in Uganda, one operator simply said, “This pandemic has affected the tourism sector to the extent that since February I have not received any quotes or bookings for safaris.”

Similarly, more than nine in 10 (92.4 percent) have seen at least a 75 percent decrease in requests from potential clients as a result of coronavirus. Nearly three-quarters (71.5 percent) have had at least 75 percent of their bookings cancelled. Twelve percent said 50 percent of their bookings have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

The drop in business has also left safari operators unable to afford to hire local staff. A Namibian operator said, “In Namibia, South Africa and Botswana, our tourism is suffering badly without our usual international clients. Many places have closed until further notice, many people have lost their jobs. It's really sad times for tourism.”

The majority of safari tour operators (70.9 percent) say at least half of potential clients mention coronavirus or share their concerns. This has remained steady since April, as well.

As countries such as Kenya and Tanzania restart international flights, there is also a more positive tone from some tour operators. “There are signs that some recovery will begin, probably in the next month, once the border between Tanzania and Kenya opens and as more flights are starting. We believe that the chances are high that business will improve by at least 50 percent.”

This operator from Kenya even saw the pandemic as an opportunity for improvement, “The pandemic has definitely affected business in the negative. However, but on the other hand it has caused us to think deeper about our business model, which has resulted in us designing a more strategic model that will be able to remain viable even in a crisis.”

The latest round of the survey was conducted August 3 – 10; 344 safari tour operators participated.


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