NEWS RELEASE – 08 December 2020: SafariBookings.com, an online marketplace for African safari tours, recently held its tenth monthly survey among 261 safari tour operators. The study was a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the safari industry and the associated decline in the number of international tourists arriving.
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Emerging Covid-19 vaccines bring hope
The emergence of vaccines successfully negotiating their testing phase and about to do widespread distribution in Western countries has brought hope. Many operators believe that a vaccine is the key to getting back to work for the industry, as this operator from Tanzania says: “Honestly things are not going well, no one knew that the pandemic would prove to be so serious and impactful for the tourism industry worldwide for the whole of 2020. We only hope that the vaccines will be a success, because that is our only hope to get back to full operation!” And this from a Kenyan operator: “Clients are afraid to travel at the moment, but once a vaccine is approved it will go back to normal.”
Tour operators receive < 75% fewer bookings
Meanwhile, most tour operators continue to experience a disturbing drop in bookings of at least 75%. This is in line with the previous nine surveys safaribookings.com has conducted, with only a very small improvement in booking requests received by operators, along with slightly fewer cancellations that set this survey apart.
Like an operator from South Africa said: “Most of Europe remains closed. The VS is at the height of the pandemic. People remain very nervous and hesitating to book, despite the fact that airlines and the tourism industry all over Africa have established robust protocols to ensure guest safety and minimize the risk of infection. †
No less than 90% of operators claimed to have lost at least three quarters of the bookings they would normally receive around this time. One Kenyan operator summed it up: "At this time of year we don't have any bookings for Christmas, which is not normal." This Tanzanian operator confirmed the loss of bookings: “No customers have booked with us recently due to the pandemic.”
The number of cancellations
About two-thirds of operators who participated in our latest survey confirmed that cancellations of existing bookings had increased by at least 75%. In total, about 10% of operators said it was 'business as usual'. “It looked somewhat positive, but the second wave of the pandemic has resulted in many postponed plans and canceled bookings. Hope the situation improves soon,” said a Kenyan operator.
All safari countries have reopened their borders
All safari countries have reopened their borders, but few tourists have returned. This South African operator regrets the faltering recovery. “The recovery that people hoped for has not yet happened. Our borders are open, but the second and third wave in many countries are keeping demand low. Flights are also a problem, many flights have been or are being cancelled. We hope for a strong recovery in 2021.”
This comment from an operator in South Africa sums up the resilience and optimism still found in the safari industry despite the massive setbacks of 2020: “Things are hopeful for the safari industry and we are getting a flood of requests , but there is still a lot of uncertainty when making long-term plans such as a safari trip; especially given the 'second wave' and turmoil in the Northern Hemisphere. It's still a very difficult time and all the best to the operators hanging out there. †