After Suffering Losses Amid Ebola, South African Wildlife Tourism Struggles for Survival

After beating down multiple problems brought forth by the Ebola virus and terrorism over the past few years, the South African wildlife tourism industry is now struggling to fight against coronavirus. For a country that generates more than US$29bn via wildlife tourism, the virus has affected lives of more than 3.6 million people employed in the wildlife tourism industry.

In order to avoid the spread of Covid among wild animals, Congo camps in the region have been shut till at least April 2021. Due to the suspension of Congo’s gorilla-tracking permits, the South African wildlife tourism and conservation sector has been subject to many problems. While the animals have lost their former levels of human interaction, the country is afraid of losing its popularity among conservationist tourists as nearly 22 countries are prohibited from entering South Africa for leisure travelling.

Some organisations are working to improve the current status of wildlife tourism in the country. A travel firm in Africa — African Travel has partnered with TreadRight to support the people, wildlife and planning by emphasising on the importance of tourism. They are offering ‘private bubble’ packages wherein travellers can explore safaris in small groups. This way travellers will feel safe while enjoying South African wildlife tourism.

Meanwhile, African Travel and Tourism Association is petitioning for a change of air bridges and quarantine rules that have affected the country’s tourism sector.

Even though African countries have some of the lowest Covid-19 numbers in the world, travel restrictions are now hampering the regions wildlife conservation agenda. Rising unemployment has led to a significant rise in bush-meat poaching. As per UK Director of the Africa-based NGO — African Wildlife Foundation, hungry locals are easily able to access protected areas without getting noticed by tourism operators.

Although the boost in domestic tourism is bringing in a small share of income to the South African wildlife tourism sector, the reduced prices are still an issue. Sources have revealed that gorilla-tracking permit prices have reduced from $1500 to $200 to attract more tourists. This is a major pitfall for a country heavily reliant on tourism.

To cope up with such challenges, the Tourism Minister of Africa — Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has put forth the government’s economic recovery plan. For drawing up this new framework, she has chosen academicians, businesspeople and others connected to the travel industry. Even after the implementation of such policies, it is important to spread knowledge about animal tourism to saviour South African wildlife tourism.

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