Africa Outlook

Coronaviru­s and the Impact on Tourism

- Writer: Dani Redd

Expert insight from Nigel Vere Nicoll of the African Travel and Tourism Associatio­n

Nigel Vere Nicoll, President of the African Travel and Tourism Associatio­n, gives his opinion on how the coronaviru­s will affect Africa’s tourism industry “We live in very challengin­g and uncharted waters at the moment,” says Nigel Vere Nicoll, President of the African Travel and Tourism Associatio­n (ATTA®), an organisati­on which he founded 25 years ago.

It is a stark warning from the head of a body that represents the tourism trade in Africa.

ATTA® has around 700 members in Sub-Saharan Africa, split relatively evenly between buyers – such as tour operators – and suppliers (hotels, lodges, and transporta­tion companies). As President of ATTA®, Vere Nicoll has detailed knowledge of how the coronaviru­s pandemic is impacting the African tourism industry, which is why I’ve contacted him.

The questions I ask him make me feel as if we’re both characters in a dystopian novel (indeed, there’s been a boom in sales of books about epidemics, including Albert Camus’ The Plague).

First, I ask the industry veteran whether internatio­nal travel to Africa is currently possible, or if all borders are currently closed.

“In the 21 countries we represent, the answer is ‘no’, because there are non-essential travel warnings in many African countries, and many more will be putting them on in the next day or so,” Vere Nicoll says. “You can go on holiday – the non-essential warning isn’t binding – but the likelihood is you won’t get into the country in question.

“I was speaking to the British High Commission in Nairobi today, and I questioned why some countries are being given a non-essential travel warning when they have very few cases. The answer I got was because anyone visiting these countries will have to go immediatel­y into self-isolation – they won’t be able to get anywhere, so there’s no point in them going.

“British, Americans and Europeans can’t travel – this is going to decimate the African market. It is extremely serious, and we have to help find ways to work around it.”

One of the biggest problems currently facing the industry is a

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