Are we ready to Restart Tourism?

Are we ready to Restart Tourism?

Every crisis is an opportunity. In the past few weeks we have seen campaigns on how we are going to or we should #RestartTourism but the question that we all ask ourselves is, are we ready? We’ve recently explored new digital tourism initiatives like the Kenya’s #MagicalKenya virtual tours and Ol Pejeta conservancy ‘Sofa safaris’, stories offered in new ways to connect, discover and share but it seems we need more – like getting out there and physically feel the outside touch.

After several months of unprecedented disruption of COVID-19, some countries are slowly starting to reopen even though restrictions on travel remain in place in a majority of global destinations.          Many are looking into domestic and regional travel to kick start the recovery process. The tourism sector has suffered the harshest blow from the pandemic that has devastated economies across the world.

Travel will strongly be influenced by a growing purpose of responsibility towards sustainability, places one visits, and local communities. This situation has quickened the growing importance of sustainability. Not only will tourism be seen as a source of generating money but also how we care about the environment and how we interact with the locals?

The tourism sector in Kenya has been working on protocols that will ensure a safe reopening of the sector. These protocols will ensure a safe experience for visitors, rebuild trust and confidence, and Implement enabling policies and guidelines to provide a step-by-step process of a careful reopening the sector. Tourism is Kenya’s second-largest foreign exchange earner.

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On 1st July 2020, the Kenyan government through the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife unveiled the Magical Kenya Travel & Tourism Health and Safety Guidelines and Protocols. The guidelines, which are in line with the World Travel and Tourism Council global protocols, provide guidance for the tourism sector’s reopening process.  Speaking at the launch where he also announced that Kenya has been listed among the 80 global destinations certified and authorized to use the “World Travel and Tourism Council Safe Travel Stamp”, Tourism cabinet secretary Najib Balala said the recognition was timely as the country prepares to reopen the tourism and hospitality industry after months of closure.

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Kenya’s Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala displaying a copy of the protocols

 Once the travel sector does open up fully again, we’re likely to see a huge increase in both local and remote travel. Tourists are likely going to avoid the more built-up popular destinations. Instead, many are looking to travel to the more remote parts of the world. For many people, staying closer to home will be seen as the safest option – Domestic tourism!

In light of that, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on 6th of July 2020 a phased reopening of the country, with the resumption of international flights from August 1 as well as the lifting of internal travel restrictions. Domestic flights are scheduled to restart on July 15.

While Covid-19 is a health and economic crisis on a global scale, tourism is a backbone of many countries’ economies and a lifeline for millions of people around the world. Even as tourism slowly restarts in an increasing number of countries, it remains at a standstill in many nations.

Destructive though it is, the virus has offered us the opportunity to imagine a different world – one in which we start staying local, promote our local cultures and businesses but most of all create resilience in that for any pandemic that may come our way, we’ll be ready.

So…again, are you ready?

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