Five international air transport and tourism bodies have launched an appeal to international financial institutions, country development partners and international donors, to support Africa’s travel and tourism sector – which employs 24,6 million people on the continent.

“Without urgent funding, the COVID-19 crisis could see a collapse of the sector in Africa, taking with it millions of jobs. The sector contributes US$169 billion (R3,16trn) to Africa’s economy combined, representing 7,1% of the continent’s GDP,” read a joint statement by the respective bodies.

The request was made by Iata, the World Tourism Organization, the World Travel & Tourism Council, the African Airlines Association, and the Airlines Association of Southern Africa.

Some of the measures suggested include:

  • US$10 billion (R187bn) in relief to support the 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;
  • Financial measures that can help minimise disruption to much-needed credit and liquidity for businesses. This includes the deferral of existing financial obligations or loan repayments; and,
  • Ensuring 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.

The five bodies highlighted that while some African governments were trying to provide targeted and temporary support for hard-hit sectors such as tourism, many of these countries lacked the necessary resources to help the industry and the livelihoods it supports, through this crisis.

The situation is now critical. Airlines, hotels, guesthouses, lodges, restaurants, meeting venues and related businesses face mounting losses. Typically, tourism comprises 80% of small and medium-sized enterprises. To preserve cash, many have already begun laying off or placing staff on unpaid leave.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt across the whole tourism value chain. The sector and the millions of livelihoods it supports across the world, including vulnerable communities, are particularly exposed. International financial support is key to ensuring that tourism can lead to wider economic and social recovery in these communities,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

Iata dg and ceo, Alexandre de Juniac, agreed highlighting that without a lifeline of funding to keep the 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,” he said.

Ceo of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa, Chris Zweigenthal, further highlighted that the impact of COVID-19 in Africa continued to be brutal.

“Air travel and tourism have essentially shut down. Now, more than ever, international countries need to come together to help those communities that are most vulnerable. The survival of our industry and its allied sectors has serious ramifications for Africa’s entire air transport system.”