Things are looking up again in Africa’s tourism sector | Travel DW | DW

The Grand Daddy Hotel in the center of Cape Town, South Africa is bustling with activity. Guests check in at reception, there’s gin tasting on the second floor while cocktails are served on the rooftop terrace. Director Dane van Heteren has one word to describe how he feels about all the activity: “Finally.” During the pandemic, the small hotel had to close temporarily; staff were made redundant and salaries reduced. Now, he says, things are finally looking up. Before the pandemic, the occupancy rate was regularly above 80%. In February, van Heteren was delighted to have once again reached the 50% mark.

Hotel manager Dane van Heteren is cautiously optimistic about the return of tourists

For months, downtown looked like a ghost town, but not anymore. Tourists are once again roaming the streets and new restaurants have opened. Rush-hour traffic jams are also back. In April 2022, according to the Cape Town tourism authority, 74% more international tourists arrived in the city than in April 2019 before the pandemic began. Many airlines that have reduced flights during the pandemic are now adding offers.

Positive trends outside South Africa

Elcia Grandcourt, Regional Director for Africa of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, recently attended Africa’s largest tourism trade show in Durban and received many positive comments from tour operators. The United Nations World Tourism Barometer, January 2022, shows a 51% year-on-year increase in international tourist arrivals to Africa. Many countries are now benefiting from the promotional campaigns that took place during the pandemic, says Grandcourt. Destinations such as Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Cape Verde and Mauritius have thus managed to remain sought-after destinations. In addition, travel between countries on the continent has become more important. More and more Africans are staying on the continent for their holidays.

Zebra and wildebeest birds in front of a body of water.

Finally, safaris return: Tourists get closer to animals in Namibia’s Etosha National Park

“But there are new concerns. The Russian military offensive in Ukraine and the resulting economic impact will also impact the travel industry,” says Grandcourt, adding that the industry will not recover as quickly as many. had hoped.

Travel restrictions still exist in some countries and the rules are constantly changing.

It is complicated

Tourist Jane Berky smiles outdoors in nature.

American tourist Jane Berky is happy her Congo trip finally worked out

Tourist Jane Berky from the United States was affected by some of the pandemic-related changes during a recent trip to the Republic of Congo. She had originally planned to take her trip to see the gorillas in the north of the country two years ago, but had to postpone it due to the pandemic.

When the tour was finally possible again, it fell through at the last minute. She was unable to take the original flight she had booked because transit rules had spontaneously changed in Kenya, a stopover on her journey. She had to book her flight.

“That’s the world we live in now,” Berky says. “You can sit at home and let it all go. Or you can travel and make the most of it. Would it be better without these restrictions? Of course it is. But wouldn’t I be traveling because of that? Of course not.”

Berky was happy to have been able to observe a group of gorillas in the jungle – from a distance and wearing an FFP2 mask. And Raphaël de Laage de Meux is happy to finally find guests like Berky. He works for the Congo Conservation Company, which funds his conservation projects with ecotourism for wealthy travelers. Customers pay over $10,000 (€9,600) to visit. “Tourists bring income to people here,” he says. “99% of our employees come from the village, so the national park also generates value for them. They see that protecting the park also brings them income.”

For more than a year, there were no tourists in the area.

Discounts and short notice bookings

Back to Cape Town. Despite the increase in guest numbers, hotel manager Dane van Heteren still has to offer significantly reduced rates to attract enough guests to the hotel.

“Unfortunately people don’t book far in advance like they did before COVID,” van Heteren says. “We are getting more and more last minute bookings. It’s both a curse and a blessing.”

He hopes normality will return when the next peak season begins later this year. The South African winter begins shortly, and few travelers go to Cape Town then. At the same time, COVID infection figures are currently on the rise again, with a fifth wave beginning in South Africa.

And even though virologists are still giving the green light due to low hospitalization numbers, Dane van Heteren has learned in recent months to be cautiously optimistic. “With wave one, we said, this will never happen again. And then waves two and three came along, and we learned our lesson.”

This article was originally written in German.

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