Jeroen Beekwilder
Netherlands NL
Nov 11, 2020 November 11, 2020

Jeroen is co-owner of SafariBookings.com. His desire to feel connected powers his love of travel. He has traveled all over the world with his wife and two children.

Below are the results of a monthly survey, involving hundreds of safari tour operators, regarding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Africa’s safari industry. Our monthly survey was first conducted in March 2020, when the lock downs and travel restrictions began.

The monthly survey is run by SafariBookings.com and reveals a significant trend of decline in new bookings and large-scale cancellations of existing bookings. This is a major blow for Africa's US$12.4 billion safari industry [1], the wildlife reserves that rely on its revenue, and the local people employed in the safari industry.

SafariBookings.com will conduct a new survey at the beginning of every month until we see a significant recovery of safari tourism. New survey results will be included below before the 15th of every month.

Detailed survey results

Background information

  • The responses for the surveys were collected between the following dates:
    • November survey: November 4 to 9, 2020
    • October survey: October 1 to 5, 2020
    • September survey: September 1 to 4, 2020
    • August survey: August 3 to 10, 2020
    • July survey: July 2 to 6, 2020
    • June survey: June 3 to 6, 2020
    • May survey: May 11 to 13, 2020
    • April survey: April 7 to 9, 2020
    • March survey: March 3 to 4, 2020
  • A total of 1,746 tour operators were invited to participate in each monthly survey. The number of tours operators who participated in the survey is as follows:
    • November, 2020: 303 tour operators
    • October, 2020: 294 tour operators
    • September, 2020: 312 tour operators
    • August, 2020: 344 tour operators
    • July, 2020: 306 tour operators
    • June, 2020: 308 tour operators
    • May, 2020: 374 tour operators
    • April, 2020: 443 tour operators
    • March, 2020: 361 tour operators
  • The response rate:
    • November survey: 17,4% (303 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • October survey: 16,8% (294 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • September survey: 17,9% (312 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • August survey: 19,7% (344 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • July survey: 17,5% (306 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • June survey: 17,6% (308 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • May survey: 21.4% (374 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • April survey: 25.4% (443 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • March survey: 20.7% (361 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
  • Our rough estimation is that there are about 4,000 safari tour operators in East and southern Africa. So far, the number of tour operators who participated in the surveys represents roughly 7-10% of the estimated total number of tour operators.

What do tour operators have to say about the impact?

Haron Gashao, African Sunset Safaris, Kenya

"It has brought everything to a standstill."

Bakari Mohammed Khamis, Malengo Tours, Tanzania

"We are receiving more cancellations every day, actually not good this season. We hope everything will improve soon."

Sharl Namagembe, Simba Africa Expeditions, Uganda

"Pandemic is very bad for our business."

Steve Mwangi, Aberdare Expeditions, Kenya

"Even with the international borders opened, the reality of covid-19 risk is still with us. Most tourists are yet to resume travel due to fear of contracting this disease and the lack of treatment facilities in the countries they will be travelling to. Tourism industry as a whole will take quite some time before it can be stable again."

Princess Kalasi, Odirile Safaris, Botswana

"There is no business at all right now."

Abdallah Ramadhan Allly, Uhuru Travel & Tours, Tanzania

"It's a disturbing situation. Perhaps next year we will at least experience some changes, but this year no hope!"

Robert Francis, Wild Africa Travel Company, Australia

"We are still experiencing a 100% loss in business. Being based in Australia, this will continue well into the second half of 2021."

Walter J Syakalonga, Sigo Adventures and Tours, Zambia

"We have closed our operations due to the pandemic. Our safari business is completely dependent on international travelers."

Fred, Gorilla Safaris Uganda Travel, Uganda

"Business is not there, few inquiries and they don't respond back."

Le Li, Sino Africa Safari, Kenya

"Currently, we don't have any confirmed bookings."

Ernest Lugalla, Wild Gaze Safaris, Tanzania

"Since February when the pandemic started until now, my business is still experiencing zero inquiries and bookings so in general my business is going very badly!"

Webster Musaidzi, DK Tours and Safaris, Zimbabwe

"Borders are still closed and most of our safaris are on a cross-border basis. Only the airports are open, but most of our potential travelers are still skeptical about safety."

Rose Agunga, All Over Africa Safaris, Kenya

"We have no enquiries from this site or from other sites at the moment."

Sekanwo, Taste of Malawi Safaris, Malawi

"We haven't received any requests during the time of this coronavirus pandemic. Most tourism companies in Malawi and Zambia are affected because we have few flights bringing clients into the country. Therefore, it will take time for our business to recover. Regards, Seka"

Stephen Mwakimonga, Adventure Makers Tanzania, Tanzania

"The coronavirus has affected our business very hard, we even don't know when this will come to an end."

Paul Mbaya Shamola, Shalom Safaris, Kenya

"This pandemic is a big blow to me as a tour operator. It's more than six months without anyone asking about an East African visit, although we have hope that things will get back to normal."

David John Maro, Kili Slope Tours And Safaris Ltd, Tanzania

"Coronavirus is affecting my safari business completely, but I hope the SafariBookings platform will help to support our business after the end of this disease."

Sydah N, AA Safaris & Tours, Uganda

"The only emails we receive nowadays are cancellation and rescheduled bookings, no new requests at all."

Hafsa Gaher, Archer & Gaher Adventures, United Kingdom

"We no longer have cancellations as we have dealt with those in the spring/summer. With flights getting cancelled we have decided not to take booking for passengers travelling this year... We still have a few bookings for 2021."

Paul Robert Shayo, Shayo Trekking and Safaris company ltd, Tanzania

"Corona Virus is affecting my safari business, as I was expecting to receiving many tourists from different nationalities, but now a lot of tourists cancel their trip while others postpone theirs until till next year so life here becomes so difficult."

David, Fahari Uganda Safaris, Uganda

"Inbound tourism is still at zero. Only bits of domestic tourism is happening."

Helene, CrissCross Namibia Safaris, Namibia

"All bookings for 2020 have been postponed to 2021. We have not received new bookings for 2021."

Alym Bhanji, East Africa Wild Adventures Ltd, Canada

"Quote requests are increasing for late 2021 and 2022 but the booking conversion rate is very low. It's like people are just window shopping and biding their time until the world returns to normal."

Chris Ronneseth, The Safari Partners, Canada

"Travellers remain wary of travel in the times of COVID-19. Most of our new requests are from clients aiming to travel closer to 2022, believing we will still be in the thick of this well into next year. Quarantine requirements on return to home countries continue to pose a significant challenge."

Ben Jennings, E-Trip Africa, United States

"It seemed that things were starting to turn around in August and September, but now this second wave in Europe and the US seems to have people rethinking their plans. It appears that we can't count on much of a recovery until there is a viable vaccine."

Onne Vegter, Wild Wings Safaris, South Africa

"As long as the WHO keeps hyping it up and warning of a deadly second wave, governments will keep banning travel. As it stands, the changing nature of the various lists of safe and unsafe countries makes it impossible to plan a trip or book ahead. Nobody knows which country will experience a spike in infections next, and whether the destination will be moved to the red list. It is time to petition the WHO to stop their fear-mongering and exaggeration. Travel is safe. Safaris are safe. International travel is well regulated and safe. Open up every country!"

Glen Findlay, Go Safari, South Africa

"Although borders are slowly opening up we have not received any inquiries. We are trying to save existing bookings as we need to wait for travelers to get confident to travel again, even though all the necessary safety and health protocols are all in place."

Malcolm van Coller, Simba 4x4 Tours and Safaris, South Africa

"SA's borders opened as from today, but many visitors , mostly in Europe and the USA cannot travel here because those countries are considered high risk. Most of my safaris take in Botswana, but its borders are still closed."

Markus Daniel Schreiner, Zamsato, Zambia

"The challenge is there are too many different regulations, especially in regards to the SARS Cov2 PCR Test certificate. (Not older than 14 days, taken within 72hrs, etc.)"

Miguel Bruno, Bushfind, Mozambique

"When the market reopens people have a great opportunity for making tourism with a natural "social distance". Go for a safari and you will find there are guarantees about that necessary distance! No crowd at all during a safari! So don't be afraid!!"

James Mlanga, Lion King Adventures, Tanzania

"The coronavirus has affected more than 80% of our safari business and also other sectors that depend on tourism. That said, we hope that life is going to get back to normal in the coming season"

Samuel Kateyenge, Katsam Adventures, Uganda

"The pandemic has really affected the tourism business and visitors now fear to make bookings because they at least want the vaccine to be available, before they start making trips to Africa and the rest of the world."

Naiman Meyassy, Quest Horizon Safaris, Tanzania

"Coronavirus has affected our business 100%, we have closed our office and are working from home. All the workers have nothing to do."

Johnson Mule, Lion Rider Tours And Safaris, Kenya

"The Corona virus is still affecting the tourism industry in Africa so much that clients are not booking, but we are still optimistic."

Christine Duxbury, Wildlife Safaris (Pty) Ltd, South Africa

"Hi Safari Bookings, In South Africa we had an announcement from the Government stating that 3 of the main airports would open to travellers from a very limited amount of countries from overseas. Most of our source countries except Germany are excluded at present. This means that most international tourists are excluded from visiting South Africa until their risk level changes. We can accept enquiries from other countries on the African continent but in the past this was a small percentage. Thank you Christine"

Amelia Oosthuyzen, Red Africa Safaris, South Africa

"The pandemic affects the tourism industry in South Africa enormously. Our borders open from 1st of October but most countries that normally travels to SA are banned to travel here by the SA government, even though most countries banned are lower risk than SA. This ban continues to keep the tourism industry in SA to a complete stop."

Jamie McCabe, Mmilo Tours, South Africa

"Have had 2 bookings since March only and we have not asked for a deposit. Our government has allowed international travel again from today, but will not allow leisure travel from "High risk" countries and have published a list of them. They are the countries we get 80% of our enquiries from."

Sylvester S. Kimeu, Seven By Far Travel, Kenya

"We will take off in 2021 , very optimistic."

BOSCO ALINAITWE ODHIAMBO, Enchanted Uganda Safaris limited, Uganda

"I am happy that Uganda reopened its borders and airport to tourists."

Chris Elsworth, All Around Tanzania Safari Pty Ltd, Australia

"The impact from the coronavirus in Tanzania has been devastating. The tourism industry in this country employs so many people. Most, if not all, safari companies have no business, and many have been declared bankrupt. The staff cannot pay their rent or buy food, it is a very sad situation and will only get worse. We are all waiting for a vaccine."

Agostinella Ribero, Namibia Travel Connection, Namibia

"This Covid19 has killed the Tourism Industry !"

Victor, Karibu Safaris In Kenya, Kenya

"The clients say they will not travel until the vaccine is found. So no business for 2020."

Roberto de Sibi, Savannah Explorers Ltd, Tanzania

"Business is still at very very low volumes, there are still too many cases around the world, restrictions to travel, cancelled flights and mandatory coronavirus tests."

Mr Kirya Peter, Yaneta Safaris, Uganda

"We so much appreciate the concern , there has been a negative impact in the industry based on the number of inquiries coming in from clients. We hope that with the opening of the Entebbe International Airport and the borders, business will resume to normal soon."

Robert Barber, Golden Africa, Botswana

"Botswana's borders remain closed and we have no tourists."

Mark Hathaway, Gondwana Tours & Safaris, Botswana

"Our main market is still Botswana and we anticipate no improvement at least until it reopen its borders which it refuses to do. And until our client countries lift their travel restrictions we cannot see the situation getting much better."

Isaac Musyoki, Best Memory Safaris, Kenya

"The travel business is a long way away from resuming!!"

George Oketch, Right Choice Tours & Safaris, Kenya

"High season this year (June-October) is literally gone. The recovery is slow but we remain optimistic."

Ute Sonnenberg, Roho Ya Chui, South Africa

"Trips have been postponed, not cancelled."

Jane Bettenay, Ulinda Safari Trails, Botswana

"Still no safaris possible for us at this time."

Anne Bright, Mega Wild Safaris Ltd, Uganda

"We haven't got any bookings since the pandemic broke out all over the world."

Diane Ninsiima, Chigo Tours, Uganda

"Until vaccine is made available, travel insurance is still pricy for potential client enquiries."

Andre Ballot, AfriFriends, South Africa

"No new bookings since moving to Level 1 as all the countries that we deal with are on the red list issued by the government. We are closing our company today, 01 Nov 2020, Permanetly. Due to no international tourists, not being able to find work, we have lost our house. We are fighting with the banks to try and keep our cars, especially as they are almost paid off, but those are probably going too. On to the streets for two of us."

Nav Hans, Safarihub, United Kingdom

"Most difficult year ever, we have had to cut resources in order to maintain our core staff. It’s a fine balancing act month on month. Fingers crossed for 2021."

Julien Perreard, Giltedge Africa, South Africa

"We only see a return to normality in 2nd quarter 2021 unfortunately."

Chacha Kehengu, Africa Endless Cruising Co. Ltd, Tanzania

"Many travelers now are curious about how they would be refunded the advance paid bookings, if the coronavirus re-erupted in the respective states/countries that leads to travel restrictions. In that case, we learnt that there is a great need for travel insurance cover to specifically compensate those affected by COVID 19 imposed restrictions."

Henk, SW Africa Destination Management, South Africa

"Even after the re-opening of borders, restrictions such as testing prior, during, and after, as well as the possibility of quarantine , combined with uncertainty with regards to financial risk, means that the recovery of international tourism to Africa still seems a long way off."

Kerry MacFarlane, Ntanda Ventures, Zambia

"We are not really getting cancellations as we have no new bookings to talk about. We have 1 enquiry which is booked without deposit and clients looking for flights."

Inge Olde Rikkert, Shadows of Africa, Tanzania

"April, May, June, July we were on 0% - now we are back to 8-9% - so the beginning is there. Hopefully, we will be able to see this trend continue upwards."

Hamilton Mandizvidza, Falcon Safaris, Zimbabwe

"First 6 months of 2021 look very dead."

Robert Murigi, Explorer Kenya Tours & Travel, Kenya

"Even with the reopening of East African skies, enquiries are still very few with minimal bookings so the effect of the virus is still very much a concern. We hope that things will improve soon but the situation in Europe is worrying as it has already started affecting the few bookings that were remaining for 2020 and there are no bookings for 2021."

Mack Kornelio, Kiliholidays Tours & Safaris, Tanzania

"We have started to receive requests from clients but none of them has turned into a booking! Good recovery though compared to where we were."

Bridget Tushabe, Africa Nziza Odysseys, Uganda

"All the bookings we had prior to the borders shutting down have been cancelled and the other potential inquiries have been met with uncertainty on how travel will be "post-covid" in what we have come to call the new normal. Clients are concerned and worried for their health, we all are. Regardless, we remain positive here."

Augustine Nzungu, Run Wild Tours & Safaris Ltd, Kenya

"It's almost to a grinding halt. Only local requests are coming yet on very dismal proportions and sometimes these requests do not yield to actual business. Whilst the situation is easing up, most clients in our target market segment have suffered reduced incomes due to negative impact in their homeland's economies or clients have lost their jobs altogether. This has compounded situations accross the board with some saying they'll engage with us in Dec 2021 or early 2022."

Umubano Tours, Umubano Tours, Rwanda

"It is getting worse, the pandemic keeps hitting humanity. The business has completely got affected where the travel request we still receive are all COVID-19 questions. The only answer to the solution is the "vaccine"."

Walter, Galloping Safaris Ltd, Tanzania

"We are still experiencing an increase in cancellations due to the coronavirus outbreak."

Jacob Munene, Wildtouch Tours and Travel, Kenya

"Travel has been hit hard and fear is really driving the buying behaviour of clients. Holiday are a luxury and it is tough decision for those wishing to travel again."

Andre, Safari With Us, South Africa

"South Africa borders reopen 1 Oct but still 60 countries prohibited. These include major source markets such as US and UK. So it's still going to be tough for a while. Hoping for an improvement in October."

Taddese Atlaw, Senait Ethiopia Tours, Ethiopia

"As Ethiopia open its doors to tourists there is some change, and we are hoping to get more booking requests and more tourists, especially after mid October."

Lisa, Jumbari Family Safaris, South Africa

"We were hoping with the borders opening we would have a lot of clients allowed to travel but with 57 countries still banned, business is not good and a lot of potential quotations will not come through. There is no good outcome at this stage."

Johan Buys, Kruger Park Tours, South Africa

"Travel from the major markets is still closed."

Caren Awour Achieng, Image Travel Limited, Kenya

"This pandemic has given clients fear to confirm bookings."

Leon Steyn, The Mzansi Experience, South Africa

"South African borders to some countries opened today (1 Oct 2020) so we hope that things will pick up. But no new bookings since March 2020 means 7 months of no business, which is devastating."

John Mitchell Adams, Destinations Africa, Australia

"If Australia would open its borders we would have business as usual. The over reaction by our Government will decimate us if they don't open very soon. We have had ZERO income since February."

Tom Blakey, Wayfairer Travel, United Kingdom

"We have bookings for 2021/2022 and some last minute requests for 2020. The desire to travel is there but the uncertainty and rapidly changing nature of the situation are significant barriers."

Elisante J. Ayo, African Savannah Trekkers, Tanzania

"I would recommend if you can comment in your article that Tanzania is safe and we as African Savannah Trekkers we are taking great efforts in keeping our clients secure by following all the precautions given by ministry of health."

Frank Benoit Kanyamutara, Golden Rwanda Safaris, Rwanda

"Since the reopening of Kigali International Airport, we have seen a few clients trying to request our packages, but they did not end up in bookings. So, on my side, it looks like people will start travelling again when the vaccine will be available. Frank from Golden Rwanda Safaris"

Marianne Birrell, Marianne Birrell Safaris, South Africa

"With the USA , UK and Netherlands on the list of "forbidden" visitors as of today, there's little hope of enquiries for me. The whole situation is utterly depressing and I don't know how the South African safari industry (my area of speciality) will survive this."

 


[1] Africa's US$12.4 billion Safari Industry
The US$12.4 billion is based on the 2018 international tourism receipts of the major safari countries in East and southern Africa, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Source: https://unwto.org/country-profile-inbound-tourism

The major safari countries included in this US$12.4 billion are: Botswana, Kenya Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The UNTWO did not have data for Zimbabwe. For international tourism receipts per country refer to the UNWTO link above.

The total international tourism receipts for these seven countries was US$15.5 billion. Wildlife-watching tourism makes up 80% of the total trip sales according to this UNWTO research paper from 2015: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/1882unwtowildlifepaper.pdf (See page 3, 2nd paragraph.)

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