Windhoek - The aviation and tourism industries in Southern Africa and the world continue to take a battering with potential to bleed billions of dollars in revenue following impositions of total lock downs by governments to avert the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19).
The aviation industry, and subsequently tourism, came to a grinding halt with Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Kenya announcing blanket bans on international airlines from highly exposed countries which ironically drive tourism, as a move to safeguard their countries from possible new infections of coronavirus.
Kenyan Airways, Ethiopian Airways and South African Airways rule the African skies, catering for the bulk of the routes and revenue on the continent.
The presidents of Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe this week closed their countries borders to foreign traffic, saying they will not allow any visitors to their countries until a 21-day window period.
“Recently, when the state of emergency was announced, we banned flights from about three countries but now we are extending that ban to all countries in the world as we take measures to deal with the challenge. It’s now an all-out war against the virus,” said Namibian President Hage Geingob.
He said his country will also not allow new arrivals even from their neighbours to enter Namibia for 30 days of lock-down unless on very special occasions.
The Namibian President then announced an intra-regional travel ban between Khomas region and Erongo region which houses Namibia’s coastal area and being by far the most visited by both domestic and international tourists.
The Namibian government closed six border posts while the Zimbabwean and South African counterparts followed suit, leaving only passage for returning residents and citizens as well as key suppliers of goods.
Although it’s still early days to cumulatively to determine the financial impact of the bans and travel restrictions on travel in SADC and the world on aviation and tourism, experts estimate these two industries which are key to SADC’s economies will bleed billions of United states dollars in losses which will also not spare other industries that are directly and indirectly associated with these industries.
Former Namibian central bank governor and now Minister of Finance, Iipumbu Shiimi, said the central bank in that country had to lower interest rates by 100 basis points for the first time since independence 30 years ago to create breathing space for the affected industries.
“The effects of Covid-19 are going to be felt by the tourism industry which is also vital on our economy. However, this interest rate cut is meant to at least cushion those in the tourism industry from sending their workers home. We would also urge commercial banks to follow suit and lower the spread. It is very difficult to quantify the financial effects now as the challenge is still ongoing but we anticipate that the impact will be hard on the tourism industry,” Shiimi said in his last monetary policy statement before being promoted to the fiscus.
South African Airways and Kenyan Airways literally grounded their flights while the Namibian government banned all inward and outward flights from and to any destinations in the world as the country grapples with the effects of Covid-19 whose infections continue to rise.
Ironically, tourism is at the epicentre of economic activities in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, raking in billions of dollars and creating thousands of jobs for the local folk.