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?

Issa S Hamisi, Tanzania Go Adventures Company, Tanzania

"Tourism has declined, income to the local people has also declined."

Frank Assenga, Tanz-Africa Adventures, Tanzania

"There has been much decrease in the number of clients and this causes difficult challenges in our daily operations."

Pendaeli Amos, Elyon Tours Tanzania, Tanzania

"Business has still not yet picked up. Maybe in the near future with many people being vaccinated they may start traveling again."

Dismas Mally, African Ambition Tours, Tanzania

"Clients are still worried to travel, and with tours moving about the country, this gives rise to more anxiety regarding Covid."

Nsiimenta Saphra, Nature Connect Safaris Uganda, Uganda

"The coronavirus has greatly affected our safari businesses. With the quote requests we receive from SafariBookings, travelers are less decisive or keep postponing the tours due to travel restrictions from their governments."

Naphtally, World Escapes & Adventure Travel, Kenya

"Business is low and most hotels and lodges have closed."

David Ashburner, Tamuka Travel, Zimbabwe

"There's no clear information from country to country regarding movements and health requirements as these differ from one country to the other."

George Weru, Pongezi Africa Safaris Limited, Kenya

"I have been affected so much that we are no longer able to recall back our employees."

Florent Ipananga, Snow Africa Adventures, Tanzania

"Things seem to be slightly better. We're getting more inquiries for the next year. For this year less inquiries."

Michael Scott, Khangela Safaris, Zimbabwe

"Greetings. No inquiries. So no bookings. Just cancellations. Very grim still for my business."

Kerry MacFarlane, Ntanda Ventures, Zambia

"Local travel is busy and the international inquiries are starting to trickle in."

Onne Vegter, Wild Wings Safaris, South Africa

"The main concerns are still low vaccination rates, red listing and travel warnings by the UK and US governments."

Robert Francis, Wild Africa Travel Company, Australia

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

Colin Murray, One Horizon Africa, Kenya

"We need a global approach to pandemic management if we manage new pandemics going forward."

Nikolas Slaa, Vervet Safari and Tours Tanzania, Tanzania

"Great, business is slowly back on track."

Eric Mashauri, TravelPartners, Tanzania

"The Covid-19 pandemic has highly affected the tourism industry and the safari business from the beginning of 2020 when people practiced self-isolation and travel restrictions were initiated worldwide. This has simply made it difficult for individuals to travel to their desired destinations fearing the spread and the increasing number of deaths as a result of the pandemic. Travel Partner Limited is also a victim of the post-pandemic effects. We've had a massive fall in the number of booking requests, and guest cancellations have increased over the period, which has also affected our company revenues. We have also lost a few business partners due to Covid-19. We all hope for a good recovery sometime in the near future."

Leonard Chepkwony, Priority Wild Safaris and Tours, Kenya

"We should encourage people to get vaccinated as it's the only safe way of getting back to some normalcy. All my staff have been vaccinated fully."

Munobwa Alexander, Africa Tours Adventure, Uganda

"Covid-19 has affected the tourism industry so much ever since it broke out. Even with the decreased cases worldwide, with the travel restrictions and regulations, it is still a big hindrance for travel. Most travelers still fear testing positive while traveling and having to be quarantined in foreign countries, and thus decide to postpone their travel or cancel bookings or not to book at all until there is normalcy."

Peninah Maingi, Mara 2 Serengeti Safaris, Kenya

"We have problems since countries are changing rules and Covid protocols every day. We used to have rapid tests at the borders. Now it's back to the cities, making cross-border safari business a nightmare."

David, Fahari Uganda Safaris, Uganda

"Things looked better up to the end of June. But we've had no inquiries for over a month and a half now."

Walter Kohrs, Safari Online, South Africa

"It's slowly improving, but most of the world is not traveling yet."

John de Ronde, Baba Kilimanjaro Tours and Safaris, Tanzania

"Numbers are beginning to pick up thanks, we suppose, to the vaccination programs in client countries."

Ian Harmer, African Wanderer Safaris, Zimbabwe

"We have not had any bookings since March 2020. All due to the coronavirus and the land borders being closed!"

Frank Benoit Kanyamutara, Golden Rwanda Safaris, Rwanda

"I have seen that the next year is promising, according to the requests we are receiving now. I think the industry will recover soon if nothing disturbs it again. Hopefully we can see clients coming again after almost two years! All to Almighty God."

Chris Oryema, Pride Nature Safaris (U) Ltd, Uganda

"Travel is uncertain. Tourists need assurance on refunds in cases of cancellation, which in the end does not favor operators."

Roselyne Gitau, Hyrax Safaris, Kenya

"September is extremely slow for us. But we remain optimistic."

Didas Dismas Kavishe, Gladiola Adventure Ltd, Tanzania

"Most clients inquire about safaris or car rental, and after getting all the information they request us to wait for their confirmation as they would like to make sure they will be able to make it to Tanzania due to the fear of restrictions."

Bruno Ominde, Affable Tours & Safaris, Kenya

"Since the pandemic hit the world in March 2020, our business is yet to pick up."

Juliet Nkonge, Dallago Tours Kenya Tanzania Ltd, Kenya

"Yes, the coronavirus has really eaten into our travel business, and we are expecting to go back into business in 2024."

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

"Coronavirus has affected business very much. Even the client quote requests we send to the clients are not replied to by the clients."

Titus Barmwato, All Time Safaris, Kenya

"With the pandemic, sometimes you receive booking requests, which once you respond, the client goes mute even with a very low mark-up. This would mean clients are still not certain on how to proceed."

Yves Iradukunda, Impano Tours, Rwanda

"Eighty percent of our employees are not currently working due to Covid-19."

Marco Degasper, SimienEcoTours, Ethiopia

"Here in Ethiopia we have the conflict in the north of the country, and generally the political instability is impacting more than coronavirus."

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

"We are getting a few inquiries from international tourists, and we have received two bookings recently. We hear there are more overseas visitors in Kruger National Park, and even a group of about 12 guests. There is persistent lobbying to remove South Africa from the UK red list before December."

Romeo Rwezaura, Safari Multiways, Tanzania

"The coronavirus has affected my safari business adversely. Nowadays even the inquiries have declined sharply. Although the virus infections have declined, the aftermath has brought the global economy down, making the number of tourists coming to Tanzania fall sharply."

Bst Tours Office, BST Tours, South Africa

"Our country is still red flagged by a number of countries, but we've started to get requests and welcomed a couple of our old travelers who have booked and postponed. Brazil, US, Belgium, Canada."

Tony Ofungi, Maleng Travel Uganda, Uganda

"PCR test requirements are inconvenient and increase the cost of travel."

Patrick Njore, Carpat Africa Tours Limited, Kenya

"The tourism business has been very much affected by the coronavirus, and we hope with more vaccinations the tourism business will resume by next year."

Babirye Doreen, Katsam Adventures, Uganda

"Since Covid came into this world, as a tour operator I have been affected so much and have had no business at all, not even an inquiry from the SafariBookings platform ."

Kawesa Ahamed, Bright Safaris Uganda, Uganda

"It is really a big storm in the tourism industry, we have lost about 75% of the business. The good news is that we have at least started receiving some inquiries, which implies that maybe in the next six months we might have confirmed bookings increasing."

Geofrey Kimaro, Promised Land Tours Ltd, Tanzania

"Though the business was not good, we managed to get two requests from clients, which were not converted to bookings. Getting requests is positive to us even if they could not turn into bookings, we still hope for the better future of the business. Let's see what September brings!"

Thale Kolshus, Wild Planet Safari, South Africa

"Had to do more refunds than any other month for August. The tourism business is terrible in South Africa."

Mack Kornelio, Kiliholidays Tours & Safaris, Tanzania

"Still a problem! We are happy as the confirmed bookings have increased by 30%."

Rachel Charles, Vervet Safari and Tours Tanzania, Tanzania

"We think things are getting better day by day."

John Mitchell Adams, Destinations Africa, Australia

"Border closures are the only issue for us."

David Archer, Archer & Gaher Adventures, United Kingdom

"Until Africa comes out of the red list and the hotel quarantine stops, there is no confirmation of any bookings."

Wild Root Safaris, Wild Root Safaris, Tanzania

"Things are slowly getting better and hopefully by next year the business will get back to normal as Covid-19 normalizes."

Lazaro Edward, Kwesa Tours, Tanzania

"Last month no business at all, all inquiries didn't confirm. I hope this month will be better."

Onesmo Novath, Bayango Tours & Safaris, Tanzania

"Gradually we've seen the increase in customers and hopefully the tourists will increase in the coming days."

Juma Kizito, Ganyana Safaris Uganda, Uganda

"The situation has greatly improved with vaccination, hopefully it will be a lot better by next year."

Janet Chamia, Netherken Safaris & Tours, Kenya

"Still no business. We have had two safaris this year up to now!"

Silas Arinaitwe, Village Of Lakes Safaris Limited, Uganda

"The pandemic has led to unpredictable travel times whereby clients rarely book with payment due to fear of travel bans from different countries. Our company is currently experiencing low bookings, however inquiries are tending to increase."

Philemon Joel, Aardvark Expeditions, Tanzania

"The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the tourism industry worldwide. The pandemic has cut international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2020 to a fraction of what they were a year ago. So all our safari vehicles are grounded and staff have lost their jobs, which is bad for the families!"

Gavin Bate, Kilimanjaro Trip Safaris, Tanzania

"It has completely flatlined."

Said Alshaibany, Saving Tour, Tanzania

"Some of our clients request a quote from us, then when we send them an invoice to confirm their booking, they tell us they are waiting for approval of their travel and Covid restrictions. So it may affect us in our business in terms of payment for the quote, and time and energy spent answering their questions."

Lisa Nel, Ker & Downey Africa, South Africa

"With the new variant that came out this week, we are getting people worried about booking already."

Auther, Asm Travel Ltd, Zimbabwe

"We are just receiving inquiries, but nothing is confirmed yet and it's taking the little money we have and nothing is materializing from it."

Glen Findlay, Go Safari, South Africa

"Very few clients are worried about the actual virus, they are more concerned about travel regulations changing and the uncertainty about this. The extra cost and time taken to get the PCR tests is also a concern, even for fully vaccinated guests as they still need the test. We are busy trying to secure the bookings we have for the rest of 2021 because until hassle-free travel can be guaranteed by governments, and red lists and traffic-light lists scrapped I am afraid we will not get nearly as many inquiries as we should."

Nicholas Kamau, Africa Vision Safaris Tours and Travel, Kenya

"The situation has improved a bit, but it's still way below the average."

Victoria Wallace, Zikomo Safari Camp, Zambia

"The coronavirus totally closed our business in 2020 and has created a very spotty season for 2021. As vaccinations increase we are getting more reservations, and getting all workers vaccinated helps too. We have kept all rates the same as 2020 as most clients have not canceled but instead have postponed. So we want to hold prices at the same level as 2020 as this was no one's fault."

Amanya Peter, Buyaga Safaris Ltd, Uganda

"There are hardly any bookings confirmed due to the fear of quarantine costs on return."

Agostinella Ribero, Namibia Travel Connection, Namibia

"It is having a devastating effect on our business as our source markets have not been able to travel to southern Africa up until now and some not until the end of October 2021. It is terrible not having our international guests traveling with us."

John Obae, Parrot Safari, Kenya

"We are experiencing low booking confirmations. Clients' requirements of low prices beyond what's reasonable is becoming a challenge to confirm bookings. Travel restrictions from some countries are affecting the business since clients keep on postponing."

Suzanne Brown, Vayeni, Zimbabwe

"More clarity on the PCR requirements and Covid-19 health certificates should be shared with the travelers to allay the fears that traveling is difficult."

Leon Steyn, The Mzansi Experience, South Africa

"Things are still extremely tough here in South Africa due to it being on red lists or regarded as not safe to travel to. We know lots of people want to travel here but they cannot come since very few airlines are flying and mandatory self-isolation when returning home is too expensive. And this while South Africa is in a much, much better place right now with Covid-19 than the countries who deem us as unsafe. Such a pity."

Julien Perreard, Giltedge Africa, South Africa

"As mentioned previously, we will not see any recovery in 2021. Best-case scenario is June 2022 now."

Aenea Makoninde, Kilimanjaro Adventure Safari Club, Tanzania

"We still have some days to go, but we're going to overcome this situation soon."

Survey Background information

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