African states navigate paths to ‘open skies’… & doors
Although many governments continue to advise against ‘nonessential’ international travel, a host of African destinations have begun the easing of COVID-19 border restrictions in a bid to welcome international travellers and reignite tourism and hotel industries.
Whilst most African countries closed international borders in March (following WHO advice to limit the spread of the virus), the continent remains the least affected by COVID-19, with fewer victims and deaths in comparison to Europe, Asia or America. The time is therefore nigh for many of these nations to reopen international flights, indeed for business travel as a minimum, though clearly not without precautions.
Below I summarise standings in some of the key African regions at present. These are, naturally, subject to change, given the unpredictable nature of the virus and the fact that infections have yet to peak in some areas.
Africa: A Mixed-Case Scenario
Positive news is that, since 1 August, airport reopenings have accelerated in several countries across the continent, particularly in West Africa, which has seen the largest resumption of commercial flights.
Despite having their international borders open for weeks however, East African countries such as Tanzania and Rwanda are still seeing slow growth in tourist numbers. This may be due to the fact that the offering is mainly high-end safari based which might just be out of the reach of some travellers at this time, and something that others may want to plan for another time.
A further obstacle to increased tourism numbers is potentially a lack of faith in some countries’ abilities to properly manage the health and safety protocols around COVID-19. This is bound to influence source markets’ travel decisions. It is also problematic that East Africa is very reliant on North America as a source market, as well as India, which are both struggling with COVID numbers.
One of the top economies in West Africa, The Ivory Coast was the first country to reopen borders in mid-July after three months of closure. Air France, Corsair and further international airlines have reopened their routes to the destination, albeit with limited flights. A completed ‘Health Declaration Form’ is required to be submitted prior to departure and travellers remain subject to PCR tests on arrivals. The Radisson, Pullman, Sofitel, Onomo and Azalai are amongst those hotel groups currently operating in the country.
Nigerian airports reopened to domestic travel 11 July, albeit with limited connections. Radisson Blu, Sheraton, Protea, Golden Tulip, The George and Fraser Suites are all operating, though international travellers only recently received the opening date of 29 August for travel to resume.
Neighbouring country Ghana announced 13 August as its date for welcoming international travel. Hotels doors currently open here include those of Movenpick, Marriott, Kempinski, Golden Tulip, Best Western, and Ibis.
After months of shuttering, East African countries are progressively joining the rest of the world in opening up. Nevertheless, information relative to the opening of borders remains limited and unreliable as governments adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach and follow the lead of other global nations.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, an important gateway to the continent, made a choice to never fully close its international borders. In July, the 14-day mandatory quarantine for inbound travellers was cut to as little as three days for some. Hotel groups currently operating include Sheraton, Golden Tulip, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Skylight hotel, Getfam, Capital, Saphir and Elilly International.
Already impacted by a decrease in tourism arrivals and cancellations due to the early appearance of the virus in China and Europe, Kenya and Tanzania were hard hit in January and February, prior to their official boarder closure. Nairobi’s airport official reopening was delayed to 1 Aug, accompanied by a vigilant attitude and possible new lockdown pending in the face of an increase in infections. Kenyan hotels currently operating include Radisson Blu, Kempinski, Crowne Plaza, Sarova, Concorde, Movenpick and Four Points amongst others.
Tanzania has been widely critised for its controversial handling of the pandemic, having declared itself COVID-free in June and not willing to provide updated statistics to health organisations. Authorities have not released official figures since beginning of May, increasing concern over the true extent numbers of infections. On the other hand, Rwanda’s positive efforts to grow tourism in the last few years appear to have helped it plan a quicker recovery (in comparison to surrounding countries), with commercial flights having resumed in July.
While Botswana closed international boarders in late March, no opening dates have yet been released and there are currently no commercial flights either in or out of Botswana. According to the WHO, Botswana is one of the least impacted countries in Africa, recording only three deaths as of 31 August.
Mozambique is gradually opening its international boarders post lockdown through to October. The country is, however, only allowing nationals and individuals with valid residency. Mozambique’s civil aviation authority has suspended international passenger flights and the state of emergency has been extended until 30 September.
South Africa has recorded the fifth highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world as of mid-August. Sadly, it has passed the milestone of 10,000 Coronavirus deaths since the epidemic appeared in country in March and has recorded more than 550,000 cases, representing more than half of those seen across the continent.
The nation’s tourism industry has been decimated both due to the pandemic and the implementation of some the most restrictive lockdown regulations globally. The ‘silver lining’ is that the country has seen a rapid decline in COVID cases since the beginning of August. Inter-provincial travel has finally opened up and given a much-needed lifeline to hotel and guest accommodation. However, there remains much speculation as to when its borders will open to international tourists. This date should hopefully arrive sooner rather than later in order to enable the country to rebuild its embattled travel sector.
The UNWTO suggests that international travel to Africa was on an upward trajectory prior to the pandemic, with 6% growth reported between January and May 2019. This year, for the same period, international arrivals (which contribute 7,1% of African GDP and support millions of jobs) contracted to minus 47%.
It goes without saying that country borders need to open as swiftly as possible in order to provide tourism sectors with a fighting chance to recover. However, this requires a multi-phased approach as well as the establishment of new procedures at borders and entry points. Those procedures need to be well designed and address all eventualities in a pragmatic way. Destinations need to protect travellers, employees and host populations. To do that they need to address risks across the entire tourism ecosystem and even now, with a brighter light at the end of the tunnel, this cannot be achieved overnight.
- Gradual Reopening
- Closed boarders in March
- Gradual resumption of domestic flight operations since July 8th,
- International flights still not possible – announced to August 29th in a gradual manner
- Contamination: 49’000 pax and 900 deaths
Hotels open: Radisson Blu, Sheraton, Protea, Golden Tulip, The George, Fraser Suites, etc.
- Inland flights authorised
- International flights still closed
- Soldiers at land frontiers with Ivory coast, Burkina and Togo to limit entries
- Contamination: 19’000 cases – 120 deaths
Hotels open: Movenpick, Marriott, Kempinski, Golden Tulip, Best Western, and Ibis
- Reopening Soon
- State of emergency extended to 31 August as cases continue to rise
- Curfew enacted from 23h00 to 04h00
- Conakry airport has reopened
- All arriving and departing travellers must present a negative COVID test
- Arrivals must self-isolate at one location for 14 days.
- Air France occasionally operates flights from Conakry to Paris
- Brussels Airlines suspended all flights to and from Conakry through at least 1 September
- Contamination: 8,000 cases – 50 deaths
Hotels open: Sheraton, Noom, Palm Camayenne, Onomo
- Partially open
- International routes partially closed since 23 March
- Paris-Addis has resumed twice a day
- Isolation restrictions for travellers have been eased since July
- Quarantine was reduced to 7 days in a designated hotel or for 2 weeks at home if the passengers has a negative test 72 hours prior embarking
- Some of the resumed flights: Cairo, Lomé, Antananarivo, Mahé, Lagos, Nairobi, Accra, Lusaka and Malabo
- Bamako, Abidjan, Kigali, Luanda, Entebbe, Bujumbura and Khartoum should resume by August
Hotels open: Sheraton, Golden Tulip, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Skylight hotel, Getfam, Capital, Saphir, Elilly International
- No strong lockdown measure in place
- Tanzania declared itself COVID-free in June
- Tanzania is now accepting tourists under pre-COVID rules, with no quarantine conditions attached – passengers must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, performed within 72 hours prior to departure. Travellers showing symptoms must cover their own expenses for quarantine
- Tanzanian authorities have not released official figures regarding the pandemic since beginning of May, increasing concern over the true extent of the numbers of infections
- Beginning of August, approx. 500 cases with 20 deaths
Hotels open: all
- Domestic flights open since 15 July
- National and international flights since 1 August
- Quarantine for abroad Kenyans flying back – 2 weeks
- Negative PCR tests for all travellers
- Contamination: 28,000 cases – 500 deaths
Hotels open: Radisson Blu, Kempinski, Crowne Plaza, Sarova, Concorde, Movenpick, Four Points, etc.
- Closed on 20 March
- RwandAir three times weekly service to Dubai and selected African routes (Cotonou, Dar es Salaam, Douala, Kilimanjaro, Libreville, Lusaka and Nairobi)
- Testing required before arrival and again upon arrival (PCR test 72 hours before departure and emailed to authorities)
- Upon arrival, travellers will be tested again with the results available in around 8 hours
- Contamination: 2,000 cases – 8 deaths
Hotels open: Marriott, Serena, Radisson Blu, Park Inn, and Onomo
- Not Open For Tourism
- April – Nationwide curfew from 19h00 to 06h30 am for 14 days
- Foreigners and Ugandans will be put under 14-day mandatory quarantine in hotels designated by the government
- Arrivals subject to 14 days of mandatory quarantine in a government-designated facility at their own expense
- August – government announced the reopening of its airport to tourists
- 7 August – nothing was made yet and hoteliers are hoping that the borders will open on 1 September 2020.
- Contamination: 1,300 cases – 12 deaths
- Not open For Tourism
- Most contaminated country in Africa
- Closed boarders and international flights not operational
- End of national lockdown is increasing contamination – more than doubled in the past 2 weeks
- Since 10 June 10, students and resident allowed back to business
- Best case: reopen boarders by November 2020
- Worse case: reopen March 2021 for leisure tourism
- Contamination: 580,000 cases and 11,000 deaths
Phase 1 (OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport, Lanseria International Airport)
Phase 2 (Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, Polokwane International Airport, Bram Fischer Airport)
Phase 3 (Kimberley Airport, Upington Airport, East London Airport, Umtata Airport, Port Elizabeth Airport)
Resumed domestic flights:
- 8 June – Airlink started again
- 15 June – Safair and Mango began flying
- Closed boarders since 28 March
- No new dates to reopen boarders
- Contamination: 1,200 cases – 3 deaths
- Now Open
- Zambia was one of the first country to reopen its borders on 25 June
- Government has suspended all tourist visas until further notice
- Non-essential visits will not be permitted entry despite Zambian borders being officially open
- Lusaka airport stayed open with limited passengers and cargo flights operated by Ethiopian Airlines
- Travellers must show proof of a negative test result for COVID-19 taken in the 14 days prior to arrival
- Test via nasal swab and self-isolation for 14 days after arriving
- Contamination: 9,000 cases – 250 deaths
- Not Open
- Mozambique’s civil aviation authority has suspended international passenger flights
- No visas (including border visas) are being issued at this time
- Public transportation is open in the country but face masks are required
- Gradual reopening post-lockdown is scheduled for the end of August through to October
- Mozambique’s state of emergency has been extended until 30 September
- Entry into Mozambique is limited to nationals and individuals with valid residency
- Arrivals from countries with active COVID-19 cases must undergo 14 days of quarantine
- Contamination: 2,800 cases – 20 deaths