The year 2020 will go down in history as a forgettable one for putting most travel and tourism businesses out of work due to the pandemic.
But experts in the industry are very optimistic that the next year will be better, more so due to the high demand of the various African products on offer in the form of abundant wildlife, hospitality, unique cultures and the accompanying friendly people.
The availability of a vaccine from the many discoveries being reported around the world will actually give a sigh of relief to the travel and tourism industry, amid travel media reports pointing to a positive future.
A travel industry player in Namibia was recently reported to be optimistic, particularly with visitors from international tourists from source including UK, Germany, Australia and Switzerland.
Many businesses closed around the continent such as in Kenya, where the global hotel brand Radisson Blu Nairobi Upper Hill (271 rooms for business or leisure travelers) operation has just temporarily halted operations.
Normally this this time of the festive period, hotels usually experience booming business and therefore this news was something unexpected, particularly looking at the fact that African domestic tourists have awoken to the reality of going on holiday.
But the fate suffered by Radisson Blu Nairobi Upper Hill can be understood if you consider that even at this moment, most industries cross the board are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic and hence there is very little money floating around even from among home grown tourists.
Radisson Blu is a gigantic name in the global hospitality industry. The closure of one of its Nairobi operations comes just a year after the hotel group opened its third operation, Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence, Nairobi Arboretum, in 2019 in Kenya, one of the continent’s most visited countries and gifted in terms of tourism attractions. The coming of the hotel to East Africa was good news for the general African hospitality sector. Africa is a market that is big enough to warrant the presence of top notch international hotel brands.
The Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence, Nairobi Arboretum, the Group’s third hotel in Kenya is located in the heart of Nairobi, overlooking the Arboretum park and adjacent to the State House within the affluent Kilimani district of the city.
Tim Cordon, Senior Area Vice President, Middle East & Africa, Radisson Hotel Group, had said at the time of the hotel’s opening: “We are thrilled to open the doors of our third hotel and first extended stay product in Nairobi. Nairobi is the economic powerhouse of East Africa and is large enough to offer multiple Radisson Hotel Group hotels, including residences. Adding our third hotel in Nairobi is in line with our strategy of adding depth to our focus countries with multiple properties and multiple product offerings. The residence is the first internationally branded extended stay product in the city and complements our other properties in Nairobi; Radisson Blu Hotel, Nairobi Upperhill and Park Inn by Radisson Nairobi Westlands.”
The Radisson Blu Nairobi Upper Hill’s closure was not the only one to take place in 2020 due to the pandemic. Earlier in the year, two other hotels, The Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Club owned by the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts made a similar decision.
In South Africa, SAA continues to be in the news for the wrong reasons, including a protracted business rescue, a bailout that was successful in the end and the issue of its pilots, all weighing on the name of one of the leading airlines on the continent and one hopes that very soon it will begin to experience good publicity for the good of the travel and tourism of the entire continent.
In 2020 most passenger airlines had to re-strategize to focus on cargo shipments to survive. And that option must have been a boon for many, looking the fact that there was a huge market all-round Africa since every country. The need to transport Covid 19 protective equipment provided a new and sustainable lease of life for most of the operators.
Another South African airline SA Express also faced turbulence that saw staff going for months without pay among other non-operational issues.
Hopes are high that despite the turbulence and tears experienced by the African travel and industry in 2020, partly due to the pandemic and other dynamics, thing will be better in the new year, as already alluded earlier by the Namibian operator.