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Tourism Goes Virtual

Since the COVID pandemic broke out, the tourism industry has collapsed across all the countries in Africa. National parks and hotels are empty and there is no trace of tourists. Several African tourism associations came up with the idea of supplying travelers with digital impressions of the continent during the pandemic. Safaris in Kenya, strolls through the Namib Desert in Namibia, paragliding in South Africa or standing on the edge of the Victoria Falls at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe: All of these experiences can now be enjoyed at home by virtual tourists. Although real international tourism is now slowly starting to open up again, tourists from a number of countries (such as the USA) still cannot travel, and it is unlikely that international travel will really open up until mid-2021. Efforts to encourage local tourism is a partial solution but the economic downturn and increased costs for visitors have not helped.

However, there have been some interesting developments in the tourism business. HotelOnline, for example has been busy expanding its reach. It has acquired Africabookings and has contracted over 5,000 properties across Africa. While Nigerian startup Nwanndo launched its web app earlier in May, offering users access to what is essentially an “Airbnb for Africa”. Nwanndo connects people with places to stay and things to do around Africa, and allows individuals to monetise their extra space or travel expertise. The startup’s goal is to remove the need for travel agents and help locals make money while showcasing the best Africa has to offer. It is currently operating in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania, and is looking to expand to the rest of Africa and overseas as it enters into discussions with investors. The platform charges hosts a 10% commission on any booking.

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Alastair Tempest

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