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. The survey was run by SafariBookings.com for 27 months in a row (from March 2020 to May 2022).

From the start of the pandemic the survey revealed an overwhelming decline in new bookings and large-scale cancellations of existing bookings. This has been 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.

The first significant recovery occurred in October 2021, but only lasted for two months due to the emergence of the Omicron variant. The impact of the Omicron variant was severe but, fortunately, only lasted for a short period. From February 2022 onward a strong and steady recovery has been reported by tour operators.

Our last survey of May 2022 shows that most safari tour operators have experienced a significant recovery, but not all tour operators. Several tour operators are still feeling the impact of the pandemic with the number of bookings they receive still not fully recovered.

Detailed survey results

Survey Background information

  • The responses for the surveys were collected between the following dates:
    • May survey: May 2 to 12, 2022
    • April survey: March 4 to 14, 2022
    • March survey: March 2 to 11, 2022
    • February survey: February 1 to 10, 2022
    • January survey: January 4 to 12, 2022
    • December survey: December 2 to 9, 2021
    • November survey: November 2 to 11, 2021
    • October survey: October 1 to 11, 2021
    • September survey: September 1 to 9, 2021
    • August survey: August 2 to 8, 2021
    • July survey: July 2 to 9, 2021
    • June survey: June 1 to 10, 2021
    • May survey: May 6 to 11, 2021
    • April survey: April 2 to 12, 2021
    • March survey: March 2 to 8, 2021
    • 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:
    • May, 2022: 182 tour operators
    • April, 2022: 174 tour operators
    • March, 2022: 201 tour operators
    • February, 2022: 230 tour operators
    • January, 2022: 246 tour operators
    • December, 2021: 280 tour operators
    • November, 2021: 232 tour operators
    • October, 2021: 268 tour operators
    • September, 2021: 272 tour operators
    • August, 2021: 317 tour operators
    • July, 2021: 370 tour operators
    • June, 2021: 266 tour operators
    • May, 2021: 195 tour operators
    • April, 2021: 226 tour operators
    • March, 2021: 233 tour operators
    • 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:
    • May survey: 10,4% (182 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • April survey: 10,0% (174 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • March survey: 11,5% (201 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • February survey: 13,2% (230 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • January survey: 14,1% (246 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • December survey: 16,0% (280 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • November survey: 13,3% (232 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • October survey: 15,4% (268 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • September survey: 15,6% (272 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • August survey: 18.2% (317 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • July survey: 21.2% (370 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • June survey: 15,2% (266 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • May survey: 11,2% (195 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • April survey: 12,9% (226 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • March survey: 13,3% (233 responses out of 1,746 invited companies)
    • 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.)

By Jeroen Beekwilder
Netherlands NL

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.

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