As one of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation, is yet to pick up, some operators in Ghana’s Travel and Tour industry have been speaking to Citi Business News about the impact on their operations.
This industry, which is a link between travelers and airlines, has literally come to a standstill, as only domestic airlines are currently operating in the country.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its financial outlook for the global air transport industry showing that airlines are expected to lose $84.3 billion in 2020 for a net profit margin of -20.1%. In 2021, losses are expected to be cut to $15.8 billion as revenues rise to $598 billion.
This month for instance, the world’s largest manufacturer of aircraft, Airbus, is to cut 15,000 jobs due to the global health and economic crisis. This is just one of a many companies to announce drastic cuts as the airline industry attempts to survive amid the coronavirus crisis, which has brought much of the world’s air travel to a halt since March.
The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority for instance, has told Citi Business News that it has lost almost 95% of its revenue due to the coronavirus induced ban on international passenger travel. The Authority says it has also taken drastic measures such as pay cuts to remain in business.
Ghana’s main Airport, the Kotoka International Airport, was closed to passenger flights on March 22, although cargo transport is allowed, as well as special passenger services such as the evacuation of Ghanaians from elsewhere and other nationals out of Ghana.
The impact of this has been enormous for hotels, restaurants, car rental services and other businesses in the hospitality industry that rely heavily on travelers to stay in business. Travel and Tour companies have indeed not been left out.
CEO of Country Links Travel and Tour, Gladys Obeng, who spoke to Citi Business News said, “…Because we are established right in the middle of the spare parts dealers in Abbosey-Okai, we handle all their tickets and all their travels for them. Aside that, we also do tours, both local and international tours. We also have a study abroad package. So indeed, sales was good for the past 20 years until now. Though every business has its ups and downs, business was very good.”
The Head of Business Development at One People Travels, Victor Satuh, said “Before the first two cases came in anyway, I had a certain understanding of where the industry was going to go. I was in Israel when the outbreak was announced worldwide. And just before I left Israel, the whole City of Bethlehem was under lock-down, so it gave me a perspective of what could possibly happen. So, when I got back a few days later and they announced that we had our first two cases, I knew we were going in for a lock-down and the first thing that came to mind was, whats going to happen to our industry.”?
“It’s like a bullet coming at you. You will see the flash of the muscle of the gun but you know it’s coming and you can’t dodge it. Unfortunately, it came that fast and that hard. It was definitely fast and hard.”
According to government, Ghana’s tourism and hospitality industry is expected to record a hundred and seventy-one million-dollar ($171 million) loss in revenue due to the adverse impact of coronavirus within four months. The Travel and tour operators are hoping things will pick up soon.
“We package tours to religious sites, and we sell it. Here is the case where you can’t even get the people out of the country. You can see our building, it’s a big infrastructure. Rent, overhead cost and staff salaries, you just can’t afford any of those things anymore, but yes, man is always moving, and so it’s an industry that will definitely pick up. How fast it picks up depends on how soon the borders are opened and how well the people in the industry are able to create travel confidence among our people” Victor noted.
While workers in the Travel and Tour sector have not necessarily lost their jobs, nearly 90 percent, and in some cases 100 percent of staff; have no work to do.
“Roughly, I had about ten staff, including the cleaners, but they all went home because money was not coming from the ticketing and the tours so they all had to stay home. When I realized I had to open, I had to call just the Secretary so that we can start and see how it goes. If business starts and the government opens the borders and people can travel then I can call them back,” said Joyce.
“We adopted a system of not letting people go home, but we had to understand what the system was. We were not making any money, we cannot work, so we had to take a break. It’s a semi mandatory leave for everybody. The company tries to support the staff monthly as best as can be done. Unfortunately, the truth is that, we just do not know how long we can sustain it, but we’re doing our very best” Victor added.
Sone operators of these travel and tour firms told Citi Business News they’ve had to find alternative means to make ends meet in the meantime.