Safari On Livestream: Africa’s Virtual Tourism Takes Off Amid Pandemic

Written by | Thursday, August 27th, 2020
@Eubulletin

African countries are offering tourists from all over the world the chance to travel the continent and even go on safari by virtual means. Nowadays, tourists can go on safari on their smartphones. The sun rises slowly above the horizon of the African savanna with the silhouettes of an elephant family, impalas and zebras make their way through the wilderness. While this scene in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in Mpumalanga, one of the best-known safari regions of South Africa, seems very real, the tourists who are enjoying it are not sitting in jeeps, but at home watching it on their smartphones and tablets. The safari itself is really taking place, however, and, as in real life, every trip is different, adding to the pleasure of such virtual experiences.
Since the coronavirus pandemic broke out back in March, the tourism industry has virtually collapsed across all the countries in Africa. Hotels, beach resorts and national parks are deserted and there is no trace of tourists, as they are all stuck at home. But several African tourism associations have come up with the idea of supplying avid travelers with digital impressions of the continent during the pandemic. Virtual tourism is on the rise, which gives at least some businesses a chance to survive. Such as in Kenya that has already lost more than €656 million in revenue from tourism since the first case of COVID-19 in the country. In response, in June, the tourism authority there initiated a live-stream drive as part of its #TheMagicAwaits campaign. “People are online and looking for places they could travel to,“ says Betty Radier, the managing director of the Kenya Tourism Board. „That is a great opportunity for us to present ourselves live as a destination.”
UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reports that about three quarters of African governments were not allowing tourists into their countries in early June. Before the pandemic broke out, Africa was the world‘s fastest-growing tourism region. In 2018, some 67 million tourists visited the continent, generating $38 billion in revenue. In 2019, the number of tourists increased by about 4.2% and, if it had not been for the COVID-19, Africa could have expected an increase of 3-4% in 2020. The question remains if, or to what extent, virtual tourism can replace real travel. Perhaps virtual tourism can provide only a ‚termporary relief‘ to some itchy feet but those people with itchy feet still hope that trips to Africa will soon be possible again. But for those who are content with virtual travel as well — the world is already open.

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