According to the United Nations, due to Covid-19, the numbers of international tourists were expected to drop by 78% in 2020 compared to 2019, that is a decrease of about 850 million to 1.1 trillion tourists, putting at risk the jobs of some 100 million to 120 million people. This situation will affect particularly the least developed countries, especially the island developing nations whose economies depend heavily on tourism. Madagascar is not spared.
“The tourism operators are sending an emergency call to the government as the tourism sector is in crisis and will remain so in 2021. Needless to remind that the tourism sector is a transversal and fragile one.
These operators request:
1. The State or the Financial and Technical Partners (FTP) pay the tourism operators’ electricity bills (JIRAMA bills) for the second and third quarters of 2020.
2. The State or the FTPs pays the CNaPS (employees social security) for the last 3 quarters of 2020
3. Exemption of all 2020 taxes or carry over to 2021
4. Extension of the furlough and funding from the State or the FTPs
The tourism operators also request the reopening of the borders, at least for the regional flights (La Réunion, South Africa, ...) or the government announces when they will be reopened because there is no visibility for the future.”
Nomena Andrianasolo, Arcadia Travel
We wanted to learn more about how small independent tourism businesses were affected by Covid. In an interview with Ray, founder of Flashpacker, he believes that Covid-19 has totally affected the tourism industry in Madagascar, which has caused his business to “completely shut down”.
A little about Flashpacker: it’s a guide service that helps tourists who want to travel light, or even just with a backpack, to see and experience Madagascar. As Ray states, it’s perfect for backpackers to experience the real Madagascar as it’s the middle class for travelers who want to experience mid-range accommodations to get the full discovery and travel benefits to see how Malagasy people live.
The status of his business remains in limbo as it “[depends on] if the borders will be opened again, we’re 95% sure that the company will go back into full operation”.
Ray does remain optimistic about the future of tourism in Mada. Why? Ray maintains that Madagascar “will remain a special destination that will attract people. It will rise up again, I am in 110% sure!”. What can we expect to change though for the industry post Covid? He expects that security measures will change but not in the way we expect. In terms of sanitary measures, they will be boosted to ensure the new standards of security for health and sanitation as well as continuing to respect the 1 meter distancing rules.
Prior to April 2020, Madagascar was enjoying a modest but growing (a ten-year peak of 390,000 tourists in 2019, a 32% increase compared to 2018 according to the IMF) tourism industry attracting many foreigners and Malagasy alike with a gravitational pull towards her scenic beaches, landmarks, and astonishing flora and fauna. However, Covid-19 had other plans, shutting down all international travels for the last 8 months. Recently, Nosy-Be is the exception and has recently re-opened on October 1st its borders only allowing foreigners to stay on the island and not travel to the mainland.
It is a positive sign that tourists are flocking to Nosy-Be but the damages done by the major loss of tourism has affected the island and will have lasting impacts for the foreseeable future.
Tourism is a fragile industry. Typical of a service sector, it is shaped by too many exogenous and uncontrollable factors (wars, riots, epidemics, airliners strikes, natural disasters…) of which, even mild occurrences have tremendous impacts. For the past decades, the Malagasy tourism encountered numerous problems but its five-star nature and wonders keep it alive.