Jeroen Beekwilder
Netherlands NL
Feb 12, 2021 February 12, 2021

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

What do tour operators have to say about the impact?

Sharl Namagembe, Simba Africa Expeditions, Uganda

"Covid has done too much damage to our business."

Konde Martin, Oasis Safaris, Uganda

"Coronavirus has treated us here in Africa very badly, no clients want to travel and give us their business, the safari industry here is very slow."

Samuel Charagu, Deep Forest Safaris, Denmark

"In general very few people are requesting safaris. Over 90% of those who have paid the deposit or full amount have agreed to postpone their safari to next year (2022). This has to be done with a written agreement between the guests and the service provider (the tour operator)."

Janet Kemunto Magoma, Javiva Adventures, Kenya

"Last year we did not receive any clients, so we are hoping that this year will be different, and business will come back."

Shadrick Luyanga, Luciano Tours and Travel, Zambia

"We believe that travelling will resume and and will make everything better. In the meantime we stay positive, and we test negative to COVID19; the future is definitely brighter."

David Mugyenyi, Skyway Expedition / Tours Entebbe, Uganda

"We haven't received an inquiry for a safari tour since the outbreak in early 2020."

Eric Waithaka, Heron Tours and Safaris, Kenya

"It has become cumbersome for our clients to travel because of the rules that have been set by different countries around the validity of Covid 19 test results."

Mubiru Christopher, Bazanya Safaris, Uganda

"Corona Virus has affected us in the past months but we expect business to normalize in the near future...Thanks."

Isa Satheba, Extremely Wild Safaris, Botswana

"This pandemic is affecting my business very badly and I am praying everyday for it to end. I can't do any trips anymore...it’s the toughest experience ever."

JP Ribeiro, Dunas Safari, Namibia

"A disaster. Since March 2020, no clients, no income. We don't have expectations anymore, only praying to all the Gods to defeat Corona."

Grace Wambui Nderitu, Safe Drive Tours & Travel, Kenya

"It's really bad that guests are not coming, and neither are we receiving quote requests."

Raymond Sangawe, Tanzania Voyages Limited, Tanzania

"Covid19 has slowed down the tourism industry. We get lots of inquiries but almost no one is confirmed, due to uncertain travel conditions."

Mr. Fred Msami, Savanna Safaris & Tours, Botswana

"When we started this year, 2021, a number of guests who had a safari booked in 2020 were very active and wanted to have their safari dates fixed, but since the second wave, i.e about mid-Jan, most of them now are silent and perhaps planning for 2022. Regarding new enquiries, most guests are undecided. Firstly, they can't book their flights at the moment, and the fact that the second wave is here, has put all plans on hold. In early January we had enquiries, but by end of January to the present day, enquiries have gone silent."

Vincent Econyu, Ecovic Tours & Travel Uganda, Uganda

"Most of the quote requests are either cancelled or postponed. There are very few confirmed bookings."

Shaheen, Legend Safaris, South Africa

"It is really terrible, no new international bookings."

Noah Kuti, Wildebeest Safaris LTD, Kenya

"We had a good number of inquiries in the first three weeks of January. And then suddenly, all the clients went mute. Since then no more inquiries."

Veld Cooper, Siya Phambile Expeditions, South Africa

"Realistically, with vaccine roll-outs and further lockdowns globally, we can expect travel to resume and recover in about July 2021 onwards. For now, sterkte!"

Pendaeli Amos, Elyon Tours Tanzania, Tanzania

"Still there is no business because of the pandemic. Tours guides, hotel workers, tour operators and all related tourism occupations are out of a job."

Hidaya Golooba, Arlanda Tours and Travel, Uganda

"The Corona Virus has affected the travel business. People are yet to freely move as much as they would like to. In essence, since most of our clients are international, numbers coming to Africa have been reduced. This is due to the lockdowns and travel requirements necessitated by the Covid 19 restrictions, which are making it more difficult and expensive, for those who would have loved to travel to our continent."

Stephen, Explendor Tours, South Africa

"It seems that the bookings will pick up only in 2022."

Adam Ayo Anael, Afrozone Kingdom Safaris, Tanzania

"Coronavirus has put our business into an uncertain position, but there is a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel as the Covid vaccines are rolled out around the world."

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

"The Corona virus has devastated our business and also many other tour operators relying on international travellers. We have tried marketing to local families but we can only sell day-drives into Kruger, or self-drive lodge packages."

Ronald Muvunyi, Kajie Safaris, Uganda

"We received some inquiries, but no one responded back and we suspect the lockdowns in Europe are to blame. Tourism has been greatly affected in Uganda."

Shaun Taylor, Moriti Safaris, South Africa

"Since the second wave and subsequent SA variant, my business is back where it was this time last year. Very sad."

Tumelo Molamu, Ntshu Safaris, Botswana

"Our business has been affected 100% – no clients, no business."

Godson, Godson Adventures, Tanzania

"The tourism business is facing a tough time now. The pandemic changed everything, economically, people are afraid of traveling. People are requesting safari quotes but when we send them an itinerary and the cost, they don't get back to us, so the answer is yes! The business is affected alot!"

Kerry MacFarlane, Ntanda Ventures, Zambia

"At the moment we think 2021 will be worse than 2020, as local markets are also nervous to travel now, which they werent last year."

Augustine Nzungu, Run Wild Tours & Safaris Ltd, Kenya

"With the emergence of a second wave in Europe and other parts of the world, tourism revival is at a critical stage, thus there is need for innovative ways to keep the industry afloat – such as pure flight packages combined with balloon safaris to mitigate mingling, amongst other similar measures. Private Tours with private dining plans should also be on the menu so travelers have the freedom to do what they know how to do best. Let's keep engaging with each other progressively. It will help at some point."

Emmanuel Karake, New Horizon Tours and Services, Rwanda

"No Business at all."

Edwina Ngigi, Africa Travel Waves Safaris, Kenya

"People are tired of being cooped up in one place and would like to travel. We believe the risk of contracting the virus is all over, whether one stays at home or travels, so life may as well get back to normal but with all the necessary precautions taken by each and everyone of us."

Mark Hathaway, Gondwana Tours & Safaris, Botswana

"The new variant in South Africa has seriously damaged any chances of a recovery in travel to Africa any time soon. We are not even sure if clients who postponed from last year to this year will be able to travel this year. We are getting very few enquiries and those people that do enquire say they are very nervous to commit (not sure why they even bother to enquire if that is the case!!). To be honest it is an even bigger disaster then we could possibly have imagined."

Alan Dixson, Lets Go Travel Uniglobe, Kenya

"Until there is more light around the result of the vaccination program it is difficult to predict when tourism will return. We are now seeing changes of bookings from June/July 2020 which were amended to June/July 2021 being delayed for even longer!"

Andre, Safari With Us, South Africa

"South Africa's air borders are open. However, international travel restrictions are still in place across most of our source markets. Additional issues include problems with flights, PCR certificates, possible quarantines and so on. This means international tourism is still in the doldrums. The hoped-for recovery has not yet started. There are also concerns with the efficacy of certain vaccines against the so-called variants. We had a small surge during December, but January was dead, and February is still slow. We can only hope for better times."

Kenewang Chobacho, African Bush Lovers Travel & Tours Safaris, Botswana

"It has affected us badly, we haven't had any business since April 2020. It is even worse because we came from the low season, and invested in the peak season knowing that we were getting busy, only to receive cancellations for the whole of the 2020 season."

Lodaru Mollel, Dusty Roads Adventures & Tours, Tanzania

"There are a lot less booking requests and more and more clients are not certain of the future, so they don't want to pay a deposit."

Geoffrey Muiruri, Turaco Adventure Safaris & Tours, Kenya

"There is less business opportunity, especially due to the days you get on the Ve PCR Covid Certificate versus the number of days that the clients wish to travel."

Godfrey Owenya, Absolutely Amazing Kili and Travel, Tanzania

"People should be told to be very careful and follow all WHO protocols so that they can stay safe and continue traveling."

Evelyn, Seven Wonders Safaris, Tanzania

"End of January thru February, the situation has started to get tight again as even quote request are really few. We feel like the whole process has slowed down just because of the new strain. Don't know how things will turn out but we hope for the best!!"

Samuel D. Diah, Tanzania Travel Company, Tanzania

"We are based in Tanzania where the Corona effects are not like other places in the world. Unfortunately, our market-source countries are badly affected. This has caused a total business failure...more than 80% of bookings were cancelled. The world must come together to discuss and harmonize the approach on how other countries have managed it and share the experience. The media should be used to spread encouraging news and not threats. Travellers need encouragement and the truth of the situation so that they can regain the confidence to leave their home. This is not the time for condemnation but working together in unity. I am sure the world will open up soon."

Margaret Wambui Kinuthia, Marstafrica Tours and Travel, Kenya

"We are still at low levels of business. So far this year only one request has been received, and the clients never replied back."

Robert Zgozi, Absolute Zambia Safaris, Zambia

"Covid 19 has really affected our business. Since April 2020 we have seen a decline in the number of bookings, although enquiries have been good since October 2020 . People are eager to travel again, we just need to keep in touch with our clients and potential clients. Hopefully, with the arrival of vaccines, things will change for the better."

paul Wassaka, Gorilla Safaris Uganda Travel, Uganda

"Still the world is scared of traveling to different destinations."

Fredrick Oketch, Fede Tours, Kenya

"The business has not yet picked up; no requests currently."

Antony Gitau, Tazama Africa Holidays, Kenya

"Due to a lack of bookings no revenue is coming in, thus operations have become difficult."

Ibrahim J Mkwizu, Afrishare Trekking & Safaris, Tanzania

"The different rules from different countries confuse clients, such as getting a certificate of covid before and after their trip."

Jamie McCabe, Mmilo Tours, South Africa

"We had a brief increase in enquiries in October /November 2020, but then in late December there was another Covid wave worldwide and everything stopped again. We have had just 2 SB enquiries this year. Now that we have the new variants the picture is even more unpredictable. On the positive side, our new infection rates have dropped from over 30% to below 10%."

Babirye Doreen, Katsam Adventures, Uganda

"The covid-19 pandemic has really affected my safari business to the extent of not getting even a single inquiry since Corona virus started and I don't know why ....."

Julien Perreard, Giltedge Africa, South Africa

"Unfortunately, the South African Covid variant has made people scared so we getting a lot of cancellations or postponements. Earliest recovery now is 3rd quarter of 2021, but more than likely towards end of the year."

Robert Francis, Wild Africa Travel Company, Australia

"The Australian Government has advised that bans on all international travel will remain for most of 2021, so our business remains closed."

Frank Benoit Kanyamutara, Golden Rwanda Safaris, Rwanda

"We are again facing a big issue at the moment due to many countries restrictions, and due to the new Covid-19 variant, which caused some airlines to stop running their flights. This included Rwandair in southern African countries, so it is always up and down at the moment because of the Pandemic. We hope that when many people get the vaccine it will be much easy to travel again. Stay safe and well During this period. Frank from Golden Rwanda Safaris."

Ben Jennings, E-Trip Africa, United States

"Over the past month there has been a noticeable increase in inquiries, however the conversion rates are still quite low. Hard to say if people are serious about a safari but just waiting to see when the virus will start to be under control or if they are just dreaming and window shopping..."

Piero Colia, Viva Safaris, South Africa

"There is no tourism in South Africa!"

Glen Findlay, Go Safari, South Africa

"Our South African borders may be open but with all the travel restrictions imposed by the rest of the world we are actually in a more serious lock down than in 2020. The international tourism to SA is zero and we cannot rely on local tourism as there just no demand."

Daniel Francis, Transtrek Safaris, United Kingdom

"2021 is looking to be just as bad as 2020, we'e getting enquiries but no one wants to commit."

Kate Bergh, Cedarberg Africa, South Africa

"Still very much ongoing for Southern Africa given the press coverage on SA variant"

Lisa, Jumbari Family Safaris, South Africa

"People are still nervous to put down deposits as they are unsure if they will be able to travel with regards to borders opening and closing. We suggest confirming from July onwards and for 2022."

Bernhard W Bekker, Private Kruger Safaris, South Africa

"It has brought us to our knees and we can not hold on any longer thinking of selling all vehicles and equipment asap."

Roberto de Sibi, Savannah Explorers Ltd, Tanzania

"Requests are still a few and customers are reluctant to book. Competition is too high and prices so low that for companies who pay all the licences, taxes, salaries etc. it's too difficult compete on the price. Zanzibar is full of customers from Russia and East Europe but now they don't come to Tanzania for safari, usually they book a day trip from Zanzibar to Serengeti and back. They fly in early morning, have a game drive and fly back to Zanzibar in the afternoon."

Danielle Smith, Shinzelle Safaris, South Africa

"Zero business since March 2020"

Aryanyijuka Elias, Home To Africa Tours and Travel, Uganda

"Covid-19 is making it hard for travel companies to survive. Cash flow is a challenge. Clients are not willing to commit to their desired trips. Tourists still have a fear"

Benson Benard, Benson Safaris Tanzania, Tanzania

"The Corona epidemic is still a problem in our business. The travel regulations are also killing us. We can't convert anything."

Nelson Mbise, Focus in Africa, Tanzania

"The unpredictable nature of the pandelic and world polical decissions hurts business a lot. More than the corrana itself."

Victor, Karibu Safaris In Kenya, Kenya

"We have received few booking confirmation, its an improvement from the previous months."

Helene, CrissCross Namibia Safaris, Namibia

"If tourism/bookings are not going to pick up soon, we will have to close our business"

Johan Buys, Kruger Park Tours, South Africa

"No business currently."

Survey Background information

  • The responses for the surveys were collected between the following dates:
    • February survey: February 9 to 12, 2021
    • January survey: January 6 to 11, 2021
    • December survey: December 1 to 7, 2020
    • 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:
    • February, 2021: 300 tour operators
    • January, 2021: 293 tour operators
    • December, 2020: 261 tour operators
    • 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:
    • February survey: 17,2% (300 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • January survey: 16,8% (293 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • December survey: 14,9% (261 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • 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 6-10% of the estimated total number of tour operators.

 


[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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