When the COVID-19 outbreak was officially declared a pandemic on March 11, African safaris scrambled to get guests home before lockdowns commenced. More than a month has passed since then, and many safari owners have taken the time to estimate the impact that the pandemic will have on safari travel in the future.
“Coronavirus has put a stop to everything,” said Patrick Vo, co-owner of Brave Africa with his wife, Kelly Vo, and Tabona Wina.
The Vos believe that the road to recovery for safari travel will be long and slow, with the rise in poaching posing the biggest problem in the industry, followed by international travel restrictions.
“The longer we are not out in the wild, the longer the poaching can be without any type of constraint or without any opposition, so to speak.”
The New York Times has reported an increase of poaching as safari owners and workers are stuck in self-quarantine. The rise in poaching not only marks a decrease in already-endangered animal populations but also poses a threat to the industry that dedicates itself to keeping these species thriving.
Nevertheless, leaders in the industry remain hopeful that safari travel will thrive well into the future. According to CNN, safari owners have noted that a majority of guests have postponed their trips rather than cancel them. April safaris have been moved to September and beyond.
“We’re preparing for a slow recovery. What we’re hearing from our key markets is that local travel will most likely pick up first,” said Nicole Robinson, chief marketing officer for luxury safari company andBeyond. “We’re also hearing, something very encouraging to us, that travelers are more likely to be interested in travel to explore nature and turning to more meaningful, purposeful travel experiences.”
While the safari industry is, according to Tabona Wina “as good as dead” at the moment, it is unlikely that future travelers will see a significant decrease in the cost of safaris, which can cost over $3,000 at its lowest.
While workers in the industry wait for the pandemic to subside, there are still ways for animal advocates to support them from home. Brave Africa has partnered with Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit to set up a GoFundMe to assist with the effort to protect wildlife, so they can still be there when travel resumes.