The number of tourists to Africa fell by 99% by May last year, according to the World Tourism Organisation.
The fall in numbers has led to a dramatic loss of tourism, jobs for people living around national parks, reserves and wildlife areas.
Poverty has increased. Poaching has risen, fuelled by people’s need to eat or sell meat.
“The crisis has shown the vulnerability of depending on tourism as an income source,” Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a Ugandan vet and founder of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), that protects mountain gorillas and other wildlife told New Internationalist.
“Dependent communities are left with nothing to survive on. And it’s been a wake-up call to realize how much tourism is sustaining conservation efforts.”
Around the world, wildlife tourism supports 21.8 million jobs. Before the crisis, it was contributing $29.3 billion a year to the African economy. Gorilla tourism in Uganda alone brings in an estimated $34.3 million and contributes 60 per cent of the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s revenue.
“Relying on tourism is dangerous because anything can happen,” says Kalema-Zikusoka. “If there were more jobs around national parks and wildlife areas that don’t rely purely on tourism, the impact of Covid-19 wouldn’t have been as great.”