According to the WTTC, Africa’s travel and tourism sector employs roughly 24.6 million people on the African continent and contributes US$169 billion to Africa’s economy combined (representing 7.1 per cent of the continent’s GDP).
But with the Covid-19 travel restrictions, Africa’s travel and tourism sector is at the risk of collapsing, taking with it millions of jobs. Airlines, hotels, guesthouses, lodges, restaurants, meeting venues and related businesses face mounting losses – WTTC notes that, typically, travel and tourism in the continent comprises 80 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Many have already begun laying off staff or placing them on unpaid leave.
“The impact of the Covid-19 outbreak is being felt across the whole travel and tourism value chain. The sector is particularly exposed with millions of livelihoods across the world, especially within vulnerable communities, supported by the sector. International financial support is key to ensuring that travel and tourism can lead to wider economic and social recovery in these communities,” said Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General for the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) – one of the four other international transport and tourism bodies working alongside the WTTC to launch the appeal.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) are the other three organisations making the request for urgent funding.
These organisations are jointly calling on international financial institutions, country development partners and international donors to provide Africa’s travel and tourism sector with: $10 billion in relief to support the travel and tourism industry and help protect the livelihoods of those it supports directly and indirectly; access to as much grant-type financing and cash flow assistance as possible to inject liquidity and provide targeted support to severely impacted countries; and financial measures that can help minimise disruptions to much-needed credit and liquidity for businesses – this includes the deferral of existing financial obligations or loan repayments.
They are also asking that supporters ensure that all funds flow down immediately to save the businesses that need them urgently, with minimal application processes and without impediment from normal lending considerations such as creditworthiness.
“Airlines are at the core of the travel and tourism value chain that has created quality jobs for 24.6 million people in Africa. Their livelihoods are at risk. Containing the pandemic is the top priority. But without a lifeline of funding to keep the travel and tourism sector alive, the economic devastation of Covid-19 could take Africa’s development back a decade or more. Financial relief today is a critical investment in Africa’s post-pandemic future for millions of Africans,” commented IATA’s Director-General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.
“The speed and strength with which the international community comes together and responds through international financial institutions, country development partners and international donors will be paramount to provide support to the many millions of people whose livelihoods are heavily dependent on our sector,” added Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO.