Photo credit: Dan Roizer , unsplah.com
“We will get through this by seeing the challenge as an opportunity to better serve others. It starts with accepting that the world is bigger than what it is in front of us” Bernadette Smith. Covid-19 has affected a lot of sectors in the economy, but people have been affected differently. Some have had a positive impact, and some have experienced a total negative impact of COVID-19. The World Trade Organization estimates that world merchandise trade in 2020 could fall sharply, between 13% – 32%.
There has been a history of fear and anxiety during pandemic outbreaks. The discussions were not focused on whether there will be a pandemic according to Stohr and Esveld (2004). Before the pandemic, people were used to doing things the normal way; touring, traveling, going to work, school, religious gatherings, offices, markets, malls, etc. There was no restriction with regards to physical distancing, working hours, number of people in a particular area certain time, etc. The travel and tourism industry in Gambia had its own challenges like funds/ finances, where to get customers, let alone enough time to run businesses, corruption, poor infrastructure, poor management, and lack of professional experience.
One of the sectors that have been most affected is the tourism and travel industry. The World Tourism Organization estimates that international travel would decline by 60 – 80 % in 2020 which is estimated to be 15 to 20 times higher than 2008 during the global financial crisis. Africa was estimated to have almost 8 million job losses in the travel and tourism sectors. Gambian youth tour guides emerge as first responders to COVID-19 19 awareness and prevention. In order to protect the community against further impacts, ITC in the Gambia engaged youth leaders from the community-based tourism initiative and mobilized them with funding to undertake an awareness campaign across the rural region of Junjanbureh, (intracen.org 2020). Due to travel and social distancing restrictions, businesspeople have not been able to meet with their clients face to face and this has somehow slowed down investment processes. Also due to travel restriction importation and exportation has been made very difficult. Uncertainty over how long the restrictions will last has left contracts halted and decisions pending for longer than usual.
The channel below represents visitors’ arrivals likely to slow sharply in 2020. The Gambia- Visitor Arrivals by Air.
Fitchsolutions.com forecasts growth of 2.8% representing a sharp slowdown from 6.0% estimate for 2019 and the previous forecast of 4.8%. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism is one of the sectors that has a large contribution to the economic growth of Gambia with about 20.0% of the country’s GDP.
Closure of businesses has led to massive of economic loss in some formal sectors, like hotels, restaurants, beach bars, ground tours, etc. According to Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS), Hotels have recorded the largest financial loss, GMD 6.4 Billion, which is estimated to be approximately 95 percent of the total loss. Restaurants have recorded GMD 33.8 million, beaches & bars have recorded GMD 27.6 million and ground tours have recorded a loss of GMD 58.4 million. The research also shows that women are the most vulnerable in terms of job loss due to business closure. About 69.2 percent of hotel employees remaining are male,67.5 percent of camp employees are men leaving about 32.5 percent of female camp employees. On the contrary, there were more female employees in a guest house and lodges remaining approximately 51.2 percent in lodges and 52.0 percent in guest houses. Gambia has also recorded a decrease in the number of tourists visiting the services of establishments during the month of research, with apartments seemingly to be the most affected, apartments recorded a decrease from 83.4 percent in January 2019 to about 45.3per cent in March 2020.
Covid-19 has brought a lot of negative impact on the tourism industry which has also affected the economies of most African countries. But on the flip side, some businesses that were not necessarily doing well before the pandemic have boomed , those businesses include sanitizer making companies and mask makers. This period has also helped to increase the creativity of people including new ways of making money. Africans have had to adapt to new strategies that would help them survive the COVID-19 period. Several African leaders have come up with COVID-19 response teams that have stepped up to support the youth and business owners.