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Ellie
By Ellie 29 March 2021

COVID-19: Africa and your safari

For months, we’ve been monitoring the impact that COVID-19 has had on the travel industry. Here we discuss how the coronavirus pandemic has changed our travel plans for 2020, 2021, and beyond.

Travelling in 2020 during the pandemic

At the end of 2019, very few people had even heard of the coronavirus that came to be known as COVID-19. But during January 2020 both the UK and the USA experienced their first few cases, and at the end of the month the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency. Just two months later, in March, many countries were advising against all but essential travel – and suddenly, the world seemed a lot smaller. By June, most of Safari Africa was closed.

There have been windows of opportunity to travel since then. Throughout the summer of 2020, people jumped at a few chances to take their holidays. But the governments of most nations have largely advised their citizens to take only essential travel since then.

During this time, a small team within YZ postponed and reorganised hundreds of holidays, re-creating trips for those who became unable to travel over their original sets of dates. Our suppliers have been incredible through all of this, helping us to shift schedules with minimal fuss.

What’s happening with travel in 2021?

Today it’s just over a year since the UK went into its first lockdown, and thankfully the news is getting better, at last. Numerous vaccinations have been approved internationally, and barely a day goes by that we don’t receive an email from a client letting us know that they’re ready to travel: ‘had the jab – now get me to Africa!!’ Here’s one client’s travel experience, from earlier this year:

“Quarantine lasted three hours after arriving as test results were back so quickly so we had two amazing days in Kigali before heading to Virunga......Rwanda was the most COVID careful, mask wearing, socially distancing abiding country I have ever witnessed - masks, sanitizer, curfews, etc..... The whole hospitality sector is vaccinated. We were fined for not wearing masks in our car ... Rwanda are on top of it!”

So what’s happening in the YZ office these days? Well, we’re contacting all of our travellers about three months before their trip is due to depart. We’re talking to them about what travel is like at the moment, and we’re offering everyone the chance to postpone their trip if they would prefer. Most clients are still opting to do that – and of course we understand. In the UK, for example, people haven’t even been able to travel to the other side of the country for months, so it’s natural that a trip to Africa might seem a little daunting right now.

That said, a handful of YZ travellers have taken their holiday this year as planned. And the feedback from them has been incredible! Their decision to ‘carry on safari-ing’ has rewarded them with quiet national parks, real wilderness experiences, and unusually quiet tourist sites – even the most popular destinations have been completely empty of other guests.

What does a lack of tourism mean?

Of course, the impact of far fewer tourists taking their holidays is overwhelmingly negative for Safari Africa. And that, above all else, concerns us the most. The lack of much-needed revenue from park fees and conservation levies, has left a huge hole in the finances required for vital conservation. Local communities who rely heavily on tourism are really struggling. There is no government support for these communities, meaning that hand-to-mouth poaching is likely to increase and wildlife numbers decrease as the decline in tourism rolls on.

As a tour operator, all we can do is remain hopeful that travel will resume in earnest and as soon as possible. We’ll continue to do the very best we can by our clients – facilitating travel for those who wish to go on safari and postponing arrangements for those who wish to wait.

Going on holiday in 2021 and beyond

These days we’re often asked, what does the future hold for travel, in 2021 and beyond? Unfortunately, we simply do not know the answer, at the moment. We remain ever optimistic that, as the summer approaches, travel will become easier. And that those who choose to go to Africa will have the most amazing experience. But for now, we’ll continue to offer every traveller the chance to postpone if they don’t feel ready to take their holiday.

If you have a holiday booked with us, we’ll contact you roughly three months before your trip is due to depart. But do get in touch at any time if you’d like to talk to us. We are always here to answer your questions, and to help in any way that we can. 

If you’re thinking of booking a trip with us but have not yet done so, please take a look at our book with confidence guarantee. Then, just give us a call to start planning your holiday! We’re happy to answer any questions you have about travel, and to address any of your concerns.

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