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?

Oscar, Zambezi Expedition Travel and Tours, Zimbabwe

"Absolutely no safari business at the moment. Most of our clients can't fly out to Africa due to flight restrictions."

Edwina Ngigi, Africa Travel Waves Safaris, Kenya

"Our potential clients' main concern is being locked down or quarantined in the destination country due to either testing positive with the virus or, in the case of a sudden outbreak, flights getting canceled. They would rather remain in their own country."

Samuel D. Diah, Tanzania Travel Company, Tanzania

"I think the media is also contributing to the fear for world citizens when deciding to travel to Africa. What is portrayed in the western world is not what is said by western authorities. I wish a few travelers who have been on any activity in Africa (Tanzania) could tell the world about the pandemic situation in Tanzania. Yes, we have had cases, but these cannot compare with the cases abroad. I wish someone could stand and address this and tell the world what is happening in Tanzania."

Teresia Njeri, African Hagyko Safaris Ltd, Kenya

"As a company we still have bookings we moved to next year from 2020 due to Covid, cancellations from mission groups in 2020 and 2021. It's been so hectic."

Nicola Holl, Kruger Safaris, South Africa

"Covid 19 has affected our business completely. We had one request that came through, but they postponed. Other than that we have had practically no inquiries. We have been affected severely."

John Mitchell Adams, Destinations Africa, Australia

"Travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, traveler entry requirements to other countries and airline schedules have caused major concerns, and so potential bookings are being delayed."

Florent Ipananga, Snow Africa Adventures, Tanzania

"Due to the Omicron variant, the situation is getting worse. Most of our clients are hesitating to book because of the Omicron variant."

samuel Walugembe Colin, Vacation Uganda Car Rental, Uganda

"The new variant of corona has made things worse. No hope, no change."

Helene, CrissCross Namibia Safaris, Namibia

"Omicron hysteria, which is unfounded (scientifically), caused a lot of damage to the tourism industry. Most clients want to wait and see what will happen in the next few weeks before they will book again."

Noel Kisiri, Pride of Masaai Tours, Tanzania

"Actually the coronavirus has made many clients cancel their trips because of the pandemic. And there are some clients who are asking about safaris, but they are not serious about coming. I've got a huge disadvantage because many customers didn't book the trip."

Lacken Banda, Dewclaw Eco-Tours and Safaris Ltd, Zambia

"The coronavirus has stimulated a decline in company revenues that has resulted in loss of employment."

Konde Martin, Oasis Safaris, Uganda

"The new outbreak of corona has caused our tourism business to a come to a standstill due to fear and restrictions from different governments about the whereabouts of their citizens."

Ant Bown, Mana Pools Tourism Services, Zimbabwe

"Here we go again, Omicron has blown our December bookings out the water."

Glen Findlay, Go Safari, South Africa

"It is scary how fast travel can be shut down by ill-informed politicians and how people get scared because of what these politicians say. And then it takes so much longer to build up confidence again. Bookings were coming in and being confirmed, December and January were looking good again, and then wham, all gone!"

Archie Rutherford, Ranger Buck Safaris, South Africa

"It has destroyed confidence in travelers. No one is willing to take the risk of booking a trip now with all this uncertainty."

Daniela Geier, Mamuya Safaris & Lifestyle, Tanzania

"We have a safari company located in Arusha, Tanzania. Here the coronavirus is not so dominant like it is in Europe, although everything that is necessary and possible will be done for the security of the guests and, of course, for the Tanzanians. But clients are afraid to travel as there are always new rules and changes in Europe, so they don`t know if they will come back home again. Come to Tanzania, it is worth it and spectacular at this time. Thanks for giving me the chance to leave a comment here. Daniela Mamuya"

Leon Steyn, The Mzansi Experience, South Africa

"Being a South African tour operator, we lost almost all our bookings for the holiday period after news broke about the Omicron variant. It has been a devastating few weeks and the hysteria is completely unnecessary."

Erica Wilson, Safari Specialists, Botswana

"Business was just picking up in October and November as confidence grew, and then the Omicron travel bans hit and we are back to square one."

Andre, Safari With Us, South Africa

"The new travel restrictions due to the Omicron variant have had an immediate and devastating effect. Now again a flood of cancellations, and new inquiries and bookings are dropping to a trickle. We are back down another Covid rabbit hole. When will it ever end?"

Stacey, Memorable Journeys, Zambia

"People are scared to travel. Airlines keep changing the flights and are making it impossible for travelers to plan."

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

"The discovery of the Omicron variant has affected our business dramatically. With South Africa on the red list for most of our major source markets, it indicates that December will be a bad month instead of one of our best seasons for incoming travelers."

Agostinella Ribero, Namibia Travel Connection, Namibia

"This new ban on southern Africa has caused major damage to our tourism sector and the countries involved."

Wild Africa Safaris, Wild Africa Safaris, Botswana

"This new variant made a very big impact because all our bookings were canceled and guests are not sure if they will travel soon."

Neema Johnphas Mollel, Kipok Africa Adventures, Tanzania

"Due to the new variant of the virus, we are getting a lot of cancellations, so the business is down again."

Emma Marije Wijnia, Shemeji Safari Tanzania, Tanzania

"The new Omicron variant is hitting hard."

Yves Iradukunda, Impano Tours, Rwanda

"We are receiving a high number of customers requesting to cancel their booking due to the outbreak of the new Omicron coronavirus variant."

Marco Degasper, SimienEcoTours, Ethiopia

"Decrease of business is related to the war in Northern Ethiopia, not so much because of Covid 19."

Jane Bettenay, Ulinda Safari Trails, Botswana

"This new Omicron variant, and the fact that Botswana has been put back on the red list again, has really affected us badly."

Frank Benoit Kanyamutara, Golden Rwanda Safaris, Rwanda

"Thank you so much once again for your monthly survey about the effects of Covid 19. In the last two months we saw a significant increase in requests, but only at the end of this November we are now dealing with cancellation emails due to the new Omicron variant. Many clients that were supposed to come to Rwanda, especially from southern African countries, now are not sure if they will be able to travel to Rwanda as we have suspended all flights from there temporarily so no one is able to enter, which means that they have to move their travel plans to another period. We hope for better! Frank Benoit Kanyamutara from Golden Rwanda Safaris"

Chris Ronneseth, The Safari Partners, Canada

"Omicron has put this industry on its heels again. Clients are not only worried about the virus itself, but now even more worried about tightening borders and the inability to actually get home. New testing rules have also hammered us."

William, Cook's Air Tours & Safaris, South Africa

"My USA and UK guests have had to cancel their safaris three times to date. Hopefully 2022 will be OK."

Michael Scott, Khangela Safaris, Zimbabwe

"Since the latest travel restrictions globally, we anticipate no inquiries till it's cleared."

Mary Maguke, Gilmag Safaris Company, Tanzania

"The peak season started on a high note. But with the new Omicron variant, we are headed for another tough year. The tourism sector has been dealt another blow! My wish is to see that every person gets vaccinated so that no country has an excuse to lock down its borders due to another variant."

Walter, Galloping Safaris Ltd, Tanzania

"Travelers around the world should consider the new Covid 19 variant as cause for concern and not cause for panic, as we are receiving cancellations every day. The virus will still be there to stay."

Brian Chimwai, Customise Travel & Tours, Zimbabwe

"We are experiencing cancellations and refunds at 100%."

Kawesa Ahamed, Bright Safaris Uganda, Uganda

"We have at least started getting some inquiries though confirmed bookings are still less, but at least we have much hope that by the middle of next year things will have come back to normal."

Gabriel Elibariki, Foot Slopes Tours & Safaris, Tanzania

"The outbreak of the new Covid 19 variant will bring down the world travel industry again if the early measures and information dissemination do not go well. A lot of tourists are still asking about the spread and seven countries have already received the red travel ban. If anyone is thinking about visiting Tanzania, it's safe and we are ready to receive the tourists. Kind regards, Team Foot Slopes Tours & Safaris Ltd"

Onne Vegter, Wild Wings Safaris, South Africa

"The knee-jerk reaction and travel bans following the announcement about the Omicron variant have devastated our forward bookings. Lots of cancellations for December and January. Hardly any new inquiries since the announcement was made. It feels like March 2020 all over again."

Aryanyijuka Elias, Home To Africa Tours and Travel, Uganda

"This new wave, this new Covid variant has again taken us back. We are back to zero. Travelers are now more worried than ever. No inquiries. We have had so many cancellations."

Mark Hathaway, Gondwana Tours & Safaris, Botswana

"As I am sure you are aware, the ridiculous travel bans being imposed on southern Africa have had a devastating effect on both inquiries and bookings. Several of our clients who were about to confirm and send deposits are now holding off because of this. And clients who were due to travel in December, and were still happy to travel, have been forced to cancel because their flights have been canceled."

Paulo Jastini, Tanzania Roadside Expeditions, Tanzania

"The Omicron variant has led to cancellation of all December and January bookings."

Federica Aletti, Shikwaru Adventures, South Africa

"Due to the new variant and governments imposing lockdowns, we have lost all of our potential clients until February."

Geofrey Kimaro, Promised Land Tours Ltd, Tanzania

"Things seemed well in the beginning of November. The new variant of Covid 19, Omicron, which was announced at the end of November, has brought up uncertainties that worry business again. For the week now, no request, no booking! We don't know yet what is awaiting the business with this new variant!"

Martin Vigambo, Earthwings Tours and Safari, Kenya

"Bookings have decreased. Travelers are worried about restrictions and new covid infections."

Marvel Serome, Marvelous Mobile Safari, Botswana

"The Botswana population has been vaccinated to almost 75%. We hope by December 2021, 90% of Botswana's population will be vaccinated."

Roberto de Sibi, Savannah Explorers Ltd, Tanzania

"The Italian market is still closed and we have only a few bookings from other countries."

Thale Kolshus, Wild Planet Safari, South Africa

"It's as bad as ever, especially now with the new Omicron variant."

Julien Perreard, Giltedge Africa, South Africa

"At the moment we have had 50% cancellation for December in three days. We expect this will rise and also go into January."

Luke Brown, Vayeni, Zimbabwe

"World leaders and their decisions are shocking."

Lisa Nel, Ker & Downey Africa, South Africa

"Since the new variant and southern African borders being closed to many nations, including the USA, the number of inquiries has slowed right down."

Survey Background information

  • The responses for the surveys were collected between the following dates:
    • January survey: January 4 to 12, 2021
    • 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:
    • 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:
    • 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.

About SafariBookings

SafariBookings is the largest online marketplace for African safari tours. Easily compare offers from top rated tour operators. Make decisions like a pro by using our 65,352 reviews and 217 destination guides.
More About Us

Blog Categories