Six member states of the East African Community (EAC) are estimated to have lost international tourism income of 4.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic, said a study released by the East African regional business watchdog on Thursday.
The study by the East African Business Council (EABC) reveals that tourism is one of the most affected areas in the region.
The impact is reflected in massive reductions in international tourist arrivals, receipts, jobs, visitors to parks and hotel occupancy rates, said the study.
The study conducted by EABC with the support of the African Economic Research Consortium and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is aimed at assessing the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism and hospitality industry and policy options to protect sector players from COVID-19 disruptions and future pandemics.
According to the study, from March 2020 when the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the region, 4.2 million foreign tourists were unable to travel to their preferred destinations in the bloc.
“This saw a dip of about 2 million jobs, from about 4.1 million jobs recorded in 2019 to 2.2 million jobs by the end of 2020,” said the study, adding that visitors to national parks declined significantly by about 65 percent, impacting negatively wildlife conservation efforts in the region.
The study reveals that hotels in the region registered average occupancy rates of below 30 percent, affecting their operations significantly including maintaining staff.
It recommends for tourism destinations to have pandemic preparedness and risk management plans to minimize such instances in the future.
EAC member states are Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.