Mbabane: The tourism sector has been amongst the worst affected sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global tourism suffered its worst year in the year 2020 as around the world, international arrivals are estimated to have dropped to 381 million in 2020, down from 1.461 billion in 2019, a 74 percent decline. In countries whose economies are heavily reliant on tourism, the precipitous drop in visitors was, and remains, devastating.
This was disclosed by the Eswatini Tourism Authority Research and Statistics Officer Sebenzile Ginindza in a media breakfast meeting at the Royal Vilas Hotel on Thursday.
Ginindza stated that in Africa tourists declined to 81 million. In Eswatini, Ginindza stated that there was a decline of about 71 percent in tourists arrivals, from 1.2 million in 2019 to 345 000 in 2020.
The decline in the tourist was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a decline in household income which led to people cut their spending on tourism which is regarded as leisure.
The effects of the pandemic also led to about 96 percent of tourism establishments in the country closing down between the months of April to July 2020. The closure led to job losses and layoffs. Some establishments have since never opened again.
Worth noting is that sun international hotels were closed and later put under liquidation. The companies include Swazi Spa Holdings, which was operating Swazi Spa Hotel and Casino, Lugogo Sun, and Ezulwini Sun. Liquidation means that the business is not able to pay its debts. It further implies that the business will cease to operate generally as a result of financial problems. The latest development will see about 200 of emaSwati being rendered jobless.
The global pandemic led to the introduction of lockdowns, shuttered borders, canceled holidays and business trips, which greatly reduced flight numbers and wreaked havoc on tourism and travel-focused businesses of every conceivable kind.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) referred to 2020 as the worst year in the tourism history, which saw a massive decline in tourists due to the deadly covid-19 pandemic.
According to recent figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the decline in international travel in 2020 resulted in an estimated loss of $1.3 trillion in global export revenues. As the agency notes, this figure is more than 11 times the loss that occurred in 2009 as a result of the global economic crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced countries to rethink the way they packaged tourism and it has opened a way for domestic tourism to thrive.
Domestic tourism has been highlighted as an essential contributor to the growth of the tourism sector and provides a foundation for sustainable tourism growth and development.
This is especially the case in the prevailing times of global uncertainty. Similarly, the Government of Eswatini has declared tourism as one of the five pillars to drive economic growth over the next five years ending 2023, as outlined in the Strategy Road Map 2018 – 2023.
According to the Domestic Tourism Survey Report of 2019, increased tourism participation of the local market is envisioned to result in a smoothened seasonality pattern in tourism-related visitations which will translate to the creation and sustenance of all-year-round jobs while boosting the economy.