Picture: 123RF/BYRD YAK
Picture: 123RF/BYRD YAK

Fears of the coronavirus have crippled Africa’s safari industry‚ a survey conducted by SafariBookings has found.

The online marketplace for African safari tours conducted the survey among 361 safari tour operators to determine the effect that fears about the virus have had on the safari industry.

“The coronavirus outbreak has affected the safari business because many clients fear the risk of contracting the virus‚ hence the cancellation or extension of travelling‚” said Oima Paul of Four Crane Safaris in Uganda.

“Some of the clients say‚ ‘We want to travel to your country‚ but we are worried [about] coronavirus.’ They ask‚ ‘How safe is your country?’”

With most clients booking in January‚ February and March‚ the industry has seen a huge drop in bookings this year.

The survey found that more that 85% of tour operators are experiencing a significant decline in bookings. About 23% of tour operators reported losing as much as 75% of the business they normally received in February and March.

“Compared to the other years‚ I would say the effect is more than 75%. We usually have a lot of clients and bookings in the months of January‚ February and March. This year it’s totally different.

“The impact is real and we feel it from all corners in the industry‚” said Ann Muthui from Blue Mountain Trekking Safaris in Kenya.

Just 14% of tour operators said that it was still “business as usual”.

Jenieen van den Heever from Ker & Downey Africa in SA said it is important to highlight that Africa is not affected by the coronavirus at this stage.

“We are fortunate that we are not affected‚ unlike with the Ebola outbreak. Planning to travel from June and July onwards would be fine, in my opinion‚ as by then governments and authorities will have this situation under control,” she said

“We understand clients are fearful about travelling right now, but it should not deter them from planning a trip for later this year or 2021.”