Jeroen Beekwilder
Netherlands NL
Apr 12, 2021 April 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?

Jane Bettenay, Ulinda Safari Trails, Botswana

"The pandemic is very much traveller's minds and they do not yet feel secure to travel. Maybe 2022 will be OK if we can survive that long."

Janet Kemunto Magoma, Javiva Adventures, Kenya

"My company is dormant. There is no business going on so far."

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

"We are still struggling to get bookings from the domestic market. There has been a slight increase in enquiries from overseas clients. The British & Irish Lions tour in July is not finalised yet and we are waiting to have a ruling on spectators. That would be a bonus"

Samuel Rukundo, Primate Journeys Africa Ltd, Uganda

"The corona virus has left us in debt due to numerous cancellations and clients postponing their safaris. I struggle to pay rent on my workplace and I had to reduce the number of employees. I also had to reduce the saleries of the remaining emplyees by 60% so that I can keep afloat. The maintenance of cars and the taxes are a big problem too."

Roberto De Sibi, Savannah Explorers Ltd, Tanzania

"The business is suffering and whatever business we get is at a very low price with minimal margins."

Edith Atulo, Kenya Safari Arcade, Kenya

"There is no stability at the moment. Just the other day our president woke up and closed major counties thus tourists cant travel"

Ant Bown, Mana Pools Tourism Services, Zimbabwe

"Uncertainty about the timeline for return to international travel, especially from the UK, is making planning very difficult for us. We continue to hold rescheduled July bookings for UK guests that are unlikely to happen but are occupying our 4x4s and making them un-bookable to guests from other countries with less restrictions."

Julien Perreard, Giltedge Africa, South Africa

"With Kenya placing restrictions on travel, we'll have another setback. South Africa still has too many restrictions from other countries to allow our clients to travel."

Charles Kiviu, Classic Journeys Africa, Kenya

"Times are still challenging although we are getting a few more enquiries."

Oscar, Zambezi Expedition Travel and Tours, Zimbabwe

"We are experiencing a difficult time since most of our neighbouring counties are under strict lockdown measures. It is very difficulty to plan a tour if you are covering more than three countries due to this pandemic. Some countries, such as Botswana, are not allowing international visitors and they have asked clients to postpone their prebooked trips."

Lilian Maximillian, Zohar African Safaris Limited, Tanzania

"At the moment we are experiencing the same quietness as last year...no inquiries whatsoever!"

Titus Barmwato, All Time Safaris, Kenya

"Due to the pandemic, governments keep shifting measures to curb the spread i.e. lockdowns on suspected hotspots and this affects movements."

Kassim Omar Kassim, The Expert Holidays, Tanzania

"Corona is a big problem."

Vincent Econyu, Ecovic Tours & Travel Uganda, Uganda

"Most of our clients still can't book their safaris unless they are very sure of travelling."

Walter Kohrs, Safari Online, South Africa

"The last 2 weeks in March we received an increase in enquiries. We've seen an increase in enquiries but not really a big increase in conversions. Many people are putting out some feelers but are not ready to book a trip. Makes it tricky."

Andrew Mutunga Kitema, African Adventure Specialists, Kenya

"The effect of covid 19 on the safari business is epic."

Wild Africa Safaris, Wild Africa Safaris, Botswana

"Most guests cannot travel before they have been vaccinated and they also want to know if all our staff have been vaccinated."

Robert Francis, Wild Africa Travel Company, Australia

"Travel to Africa from Australia will not resume until 2022."

Vincent Mugaba, Kwezi Outdoors Ltd, Uganda

"When the corona pandemic struck, we had just been in business for a year (2019). As a small startup, it has been very tough for us. We've had to start all over again. Like we never existed. The bookings we had had in 2020 were all cancelled. The exhibitions we had hoped to make use of were postponed to this year. However, we believe not all is lost and we are rebuilding our business again from the ground up - from zero. As more travel exhibitions go online, we hope to meet again. Physical meetings are still a challenge especially because lockdowns in Europe, our main market. But we are doing all we can to start again."

Johnson Mule, Lion Rider Tours And Safaris, Kenya

"Here in Kenya, we are locked down in 5 counties so things are still tough."

Waterburg Safari, Waterburg Safari, Botswana

"The virus has affected the safari industry badly as people are no longer traveling and they are afraid of country restrictions."

Virgo Immaculate Ssempebwa-Munting, Gorilla Tours, Uganda

"Our business is 99.9% down."

Geofrey Kimaro, Promised Land Tours Ltd, Tanzania

"The new varients of the virus that keep emerging create uncertainties. But we are still optimistic. With more people getting vaccinated the business will hopefully bounce back."

Shanice Mumbi Agatha, Adventure My Take, Kenya

"In one and a half year I haven't had a single booking."

Wickliffe Odera, Game Whisperers Adventures, Kenya

"COVID 19 is killing the travel industry, especially with the more serious third wave at the moment in Kenya. We had been hopeful that all was getting well, but with the new lockdown we’re unsure and less optimistic for the future."

Felistus M. Muindi, Oakland Tours and Safaris, Kenya

"Lockdowns and prohibited travel across the counties has forced us not to sell any local travel to the Masai Mara, Mombasa, Malindi and regional destinations."

Doris Nicholaus, Brown Parrot Safaris, Tanzania

"We are taking all the measures in Tanzania and there is no quarantine here. We hope clients will come when they are vaccinated."

Ibrahim J Mkwizu, Afrishare Trekking & Safaris, Tanzania

"We are struggling. We have no confirmed tours. The situation is unpredictable and hard. The few request we receives are people who are just looking for the future when the covid situation changes and all restrictions end. Therefore we are running out of money."

Aenea Makoninde, Kilimanjaro Adventure Safari Club, Tanzania

"There is no business at all. The corona virus has affected our safari business very hard."

Akello Sylvester'S{Simon}, Wild Race Africa, Kenya

"The recent lockdown in Kenya together with travel bans placed on travelers coming from Kenya by the UK and the USA listing Kenya as a danger zone, make that we have no bookings coming in at all. Most inquiries are just from shoppers. Very few are serious about booking a trip. We hope for the best in the near future though."

Emma Marije Wijnia, Shemeji Safari Tanzania, Tanzania

"It's not getting any better."

Regina Pondo, Reny Safaris, Kenya

"Covid-19 has affected my business in a big way but I trust God will see us through very soon."

Ronald Muvunyi, Kajie Safaris, Uganda

"We are receiving a few inquiries and quote requests now, but the bookings are very low or not there at all. We hope to get busier as time goes on."

Simon Mwakajumba, Herbivore African Expeditions, Tanzania

"We all believe that with existing vaccines tourism will gradually open up."

Amelia Oosthuyzen, Red Africa Safaris, South Africa

"The situations is still the same except for 1 or 2 additional quotation requests coming in. We have had no additional bookings and still no international visitors."

Victoria Wallace, Zikomo Safari Camp, Zambia

"Thankfully we have had 90% of our bookings postponed to 2022 instead of cancellations. We don’t really expect much business till 2022. That means two years of supporting our staff with no income. It's been very difficult."

Colin Dilland, East Cape Tours, South Africa

"There has been some interest but I don’t see a great deal of improvement until African countries get off the UK red list. Kenya being included on the red list recently is yet another challenge."

Susan, Pembury Tours, South Africa

"We are starting to see a few enquiries coming through from people who have been vaccinated."

Kerry Macfarlane, Ntanda Ventures, Zambia

"Until most of Africa is vaccinated I see little business coming our way."

Nadzua Matara, BuyMore Adventures, Kenya

"Nobody is certain about what the situation will be like in the next few months. We are not receiving confirmations of travel because most affected countries have classified tourism as non essential travel."

James Mwalata, WildLife Sun Safaris, Kenya

"The third wave has highly affected last minute bookings as well as summer bookings for this year."

James Muchemi, Saunterland Africa Tours, Kenya

"The pandemic has continued to affect travel across the globe."

John Obae, Go East Africa Safari, Kenya

"Some of the countries are still in lockdown, so it's difficult for clients to books and confirm their safari holiday."

Mr Kuriah N. Paul, Steps Adventures, Kenya

"The effect of COVID-19 is a big blow to the tourism sector. It affects the GDP in terms of micro economics. Banks don’t want to finance and businesses are closing down."

Angoma Abubakari, African Finfoot Safaris, Uganda

"We are yet to get back to our feet. There is light at the end of the tunnel."

Bongizwe Madondo, Southern Tours and Safaris, South Africa

"It is terrible. Hopefully, in 2023 the situation will be better."

James Oketch, Twinkle Star Tours and Safaris, Kenya

"Our business fate depends on Europeans coming to Africa. The pandemic isn't as bad in Africa as compared to European countries. We hope the vaccinations will be rolled out as fast as possible to reduce the spread of the pandemic."

Fanuel Kashima, Discovery Transfer and Tours, Namibia

"The corona virus robbed us the only income we had."

Saitoti Sitton Saibull, Biko Adventures Tours Tanzania Limited, Tanzania

"There is still a huge negative impact in this sector due to the pandemic."

Richard Hilton, Greatest Africa, South Africa

"We have had two bookings in the last month for clients from the USA traveling in July 2021. They have paid their deposits - lets hope it all happens!"

Victor, Karibu Safaris In Kenya, Kenya

"The business is down because of COVID-19 and because of the lockdowns in countries caused by the 3rd wave."

Henk, SW Africa Destination Management, South Africa

"We are quoting and postponing and doing a lot of work whilst not receiving any extra revenue for that. We never know if quotes will materialize and if so, when clients will be willing to pay for those new bookings. We need to pay our staff while clients are reluctant to pay in advance for anything."

Loth Msechu, Ilmaasai Expedition, Tanzania

"Corona has killed the business."

Onne Vegter, Wild Wings Safaris, South Africa

"Most African safari destinations remain on the UK's infamous "red list" and are subject to travel bans and reduced flight schedules from our key source markets. Although safari travel is safe, and there are robust health protocols in place, many airlines have not yet reinstated flights, and customers find it very difficult to get here. If they don't face an outright ban on travel to Africa, they are likely to face mandatory quarantine upon return. We really hope that this situation will change as more people are vaccinated."

Kiwanuka Mussa Lubega, Paradise Adventure Vacations, Uganda

"We need to put a lot of effort to achieve our goals. We thank the SafariBookings team for helping us tour operators in Africa to make our dreams come true."

Gabriel Elibariki, Foot Slopes Tours & Safaris, Tanzania

"Due to uncertainty, clients are still cancelling or reschedulling tours to 2022. We hope it will be better in future due to vaccination."

Peter Mutuku, Amko Safaris, Kenya

"The pandemic has really ravaged the tour industry here in Kenya."

Thale Kolshus, Wild Planet Safari, South Africa

"We dont get any new bookings"

Tongesai Mutematsaka, Cultural Vibes Travel & Tours, Zimbabwe

"The pandemic has affected the tourism business completely. Potential clients are being affected by the inconsistency of how various countries are applying quarantine restrictions."

Jamie Mccabe, Mmilo Tours, South Africa

"I have just had my first fully paid booking this year through SafariBookings."

Patrick Gitau, Expedition Kenya Safari, Kenya

"COVID-19 and tourism cannot co-exist. It is like water and oil. So long as tests continue, it will be endless lockdowns and travel restrictions every time the "numbers go up"."

Frank Benoit Kanyamutara, Golden Rwanda Safaris, Rwanda

"Hi Safaribookings Team, Sure we are still Experiencing cancellations even if people attempt to send requests but still, we do have an issue of Covid-19 where Clients send you Requests after concluding everything then the next you will receive another e-mail saying that "We decided to hold off our travel plans for now" So that is how the situation is at the moment. Frank Benoit K. from Golden Rwanda Safaris."

Janet Chamia, Netherken Safaris & Tours, Kenya

"We have had one safari till now. We are happy with that, but this is not business as usual."

Helene, CrissCross Namibia Safaris, Namibia

"Booked tours which had to be postponed will commence once the international borders are open again. Most 2020 bookings were postponed to 2021 and we now have to postpone some of it to 2022."

Agnes Daniel Lomnyaki, Rhino Explorer Tours & Safaris, Tanzania

"Now it is low season, it is even more difficult to predict the exact impact of COVID-19. But previous years we even had clients during the low/rainy season. Now we cross fingers while we wait for the vaccination programs to cover the world. Hopefully, the vaccine will make a change."

Henry Kamau, Dume Africa Trails Ltd, Kenya

"Cancellations and postponements for now."

Lazaro Edward, Kwesa Tours, Tanzania

"Business is still bad even though we received some enquiries. There has been no business yet."

Lisa, Jumbari Family Safaris, South Africa

"With borders closing in Kenya we are losing business with our East Africa enquiries."

Bosodabreo Tours Safaris, BosoDabreo Tours Safaris, Kenya

"Corona virus has really affected my safari business. I have not received any clients for a year now. Nairobi is in a partial lockdown. So it's hard and am not sure we are going to survive. Hopefully things get back to normal."

Nelson Mugisha, Lake Chahafi Resort, Uganda

"We closed our property temporarily due to corona virus."

Jacinta Amina, Breezy Tours & Travel, Kenya

"The third wave is really bad. Even local tourism is affected."

Dennis Mwangangi Solomon, Papio Africa Holidays, Kenya

"The various restrictions have really affected the tourism sector."

Nabira Hakim, Afrikakukaye Tours and Safaris Ltd, Tanzania

"The corona virus still has a big impact on us. There is no business."

Steve Mwangi, Aberdare Expeditions, Kenya

"Kenya was just opening in January and people were beginning to warm up to the idea of travelling by early March. However, mid March the country experienced another upsurge in COVID-19 cases and 5 counties were locked down. Nairobi, which is the capital city and the one where all international flights come through, being one of them. We are therefore still in lockdown indefinitely. Hoping things brighten up soon."

Charles Morgan Kisitu, 1000 Shades of Green, Uganda

"The safari business will not get back to normal until 2022."

Stephen Arwa, Feel The Diffence Adventures, Kenya

"The pandemic has affected the business 100%."

Kawesa Ahamed, Bright Safaris Uganda, Uganda

"For sure the pandemic has affected our tourism industry very much. I haven't received any bookings since February last year."

Stephen Arwa, Pride of Africa Adventures, Kenya

"COVID-19 has affected the safaris 100%."

Christopher Khosa, Kalahari Breeze Safaris, Botswana

"The corona virus pandemic has basically brought the safari business to a complete halt. Many operators have closed or ceased to operate due to the liquidity crisis with no or very little bookings coming through. No cash flow makes it very hard to keep running a safari business, which by nature is a high maintenance business venture. Partners in the industry have come together and are supporting each other in any way they can to make it through this tough period (for example SafariBookings’ innovative solutions). We have seen an increase in private booking requests as compared to group tours. We also advocate this to keep our clients as safe as possible while on a tour. I guess during every hardship some innovations come out of the adversities and I predict the industry will adapt, adjust and eventually overcome and the way safaris will be conducted will change. We continue to appreciate the support we receive from the SafariBookings platform during this period."

Walter, Galloping Safaris Ltd, Tanzania

"The pandemic is still a huge crisis for us but we are confident that after the roll out of vaccines things will change and rise again."

Anne Waithira, Amazing Memories Safaris, Kenya

"Ever since corona was declared a global pandemic, things have never been the same again. It's even worse now. Cancellation emails and refunds are the order of the day now."

Andre, Safari With Us, South Africa

"I am cautiously optimistic that the recovery has started for us. We have seen a sharp increase in active inquiries over the last 2 - 3 weeks. We are still down more than 50% compared to pre-covid levels, but things are trending in the right direction. As long as South Africa can avoid the dreaded 3rd wave, and Europe starts opening up, we will come out of this stronger and wiser. I would like to thank Safari Bookings for assistance with no-cost / low-cost quote requests during the pandemic. It was a great help!"

Glen Findlay, Go Safari, South Africa

"I think people are not too worried to travel due to the virus but they are more concerned about travel restrictions that change all the time. They don't want to be here in SA and then maybe struggle to get home or have a quarantine enforced when they get home. The restrictions are unpredictable at the moment and that is more of a concern."

Isaac Musyoki, Best Memory Safaris, Kenya

"The pandemic is still hitting!"

Albert Marongah, Exciting Africa Holidays, Kenya

"We hope things will improve. Thanks."

Amanya Peter, Buyaga Safaris Ltd, Uganda

"We’ve had no more enquiries for the last three months due to the new corona variant and due to the fact that countries are imposing lockdowns again."

Kesego Bodroux Mokwasi, Delta Sea Adventures, Botswana

"There are no bookings due to lockdowns and an increased number of positive corona virus cases."

Alfred Syanda, Bencia Africa Adventure & Safaris, Kenya

"COVID-19 it has taken the tourism industry to hell"

Survey Background information

  • The responses for the surveys were collected between the following dates:
    • 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:
    • 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:
    • 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.)

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