Mbabane: The past few days have presented an uplifting sense of relief as we have watched the vaccination process unfold in different parts of the world. As Eswatini await the arrival of the vaccine, it is indeed comforting to see numerous social media posts of people eagerly sticking their arms out as the injection needle sinks into their flesh, signifying the dawning of a new day and affirming progress towards reaching herd immunity.
For the travel and tourism industry, the ongoing vaccine rollout signifies great strides towards tourism recovery. While we may not have a concrete timeframe for when it will be completely safe for international travel to resume and revert to its level of operation before the pandemic hit, a recent survey by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reveals that about 80% of tourism experts expect international tourism to return to pre-pandemic (2019) levels between 2023 and 2024.
Nonetheless, this does not negate the positive advancements being made so long by countries that have already begun vaccinating its people, and the impact that this will have in making safe international travel a possibility again. An example is one of Eswatini’s tourism source markets, the United Kingdom. The country’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, revealed a clearly-segmented roadmap out of lockdown published as ‘COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021’ , which has been received with optimism as it leads to international travel, albeit subject to review, no earlier than 17 May 2021.
Another one of Eswatini’s tourism source markets, South Africa, continues with its vaccine roll-out, having received its first batch of vaccines 11 days ago which were administered to health workers across the country, and its second batch yesterday.
In Eswatini the Ministry of Health’s appointment of a task team indicates our progress, although it has not yet manifested the same way that it has in other countries.
With the varying projections on when international travel will resume, it is important that we as individuals cooperate with the Ministry of Health by responding to the call to get vaccinated when that time arrives. It is important that we acknowledge and prioritize the benefits of doing so and how that will accelerate our journey towards normalcy and travel.
Unlike before the pandemic, it will no longer be enough to cite unique cultural experiences and breath taking natural landscapes to entice tourists. Holidaymakers and tourism operators will now search specifically for countries that have been certified safe by having its people vaccinated. The anticipated outcome from achieving herd immunity is tourism recovery at a critical time when the UNWTO reports that the tourism industry has lost an estimated $1.3 trillion in export revenue in 2020. The resuscitation of the industry will subsequently contributes towards overall economic recovery, with a lot of livelihoods expected to be restored, particularly for organizations, entrepreneurs and establishments whose livelihoods are dependent on tourism.
For Eswatini, achieving herd immunity from COVID-19 will add an added layer to the many accolades and raving reviews that has attracted so many tourists to the country over the years. In addition to being named one of the world’s top countries in 2020 by world-leading travel authority, Lonely Planet, a successful vaccine rollout will further cement our position as an attractive and safe travel destination for domestic, regional and international tourists who will also have received the vaccine from their country. We will once again welcome people from around the world who will visit the country to witness some of our hallmark cultural events such as Buganu Festival, the Umhlanga Reed Dance and the Incwala ceremony, as well as our flagship arts and entertainment events such as the MTN Bushfire festival.
COMPILED BY: Eswatini Tourism Authority