FATMA Ameir, one of the few female tour guides in the stone town says she is already feeling the impact of coronavirus on her life; “We are now idle, this health problem has left us with no job following travel restrictions across the globe.”
Ms Ameir is among the estimated more than ten thousand people, majority being youth employed directly in the tourism industry who are now finding themselves with no job following restrictions on foreigners coming to Zanzibar in efforts to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19.
Almost two weeks since the travel ban on tourists from Italy, the leading visitors and investors in Zanzibar, most of the hotels, restaurants, foods cafes, tourists’ sites, tour guides, and tour/taxi operators organisations are now jobless. “This is a big blow on us who rely on tourism at almost 100 per cent.
Other activities like agriculture (spices) and cloves farming has in the past decade remained behind tourism,” Thabit Abdulrazak from Zanzibar Association of Tours Operators (ZATO) said. Mr Abdulrazak says because of multiple effects of ‘coronavirus’ on the lives of the people, it has proved that they and the country need to have reliable multiple sources of income in the future.
He said that people in Zanzibar should now take farming or agriculture serious as alternatives to volatile tourism business. “Let us think beyond tourism. It is unfortunate we have few and volatile sources of income. Let us hope the on-going oil and gas exploration project gives positive results.”
Shortly after announcing the travel ban imposed on foreign flights to Zanzibar, the Minister of Information, Tourism, and Antiquities Mr Mahmoud Thabit Kombo said the effect of coronavirus on tourism is more than 95 per cent.
Tourism is Zanzibar’s leading foreign exchange earners of more than 80 per cent, contributing more than 25 per cent to the Isles GDP. The Zanzibar government and the people here depend largely on tourism for their livelihood.
“Although we have low season of tourists like at this time, we were still receiving visitors. Let us follow health guidelines to control coronavirus so that the ban does not last longer,” said Mr Mussa Abubakar- a hotel manager.
Authorities here have imposed an indefinite ban on entry to people travelling from any country with reported coronavirus cases, with the exception of citizens returning home and foreigners with residence permits, who will have to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.
Zanzibar also joined other countries to closedown schools and higher learning institutions, and discouraged avoidable gathering including funerals and weddings as added measures to control the spread of COVID-19. The government is also directing people to avoid or minimize gatherings in hospitals and markets.
“The safety of our people is our top priority,” Mr Khatib Abdulrahman Khatib- Mayorof Zanzibar City says. Mombasa, Mwanakwerekwe, and Darajani central market are famous markets that attract many people including tourists and hotels operators both during day and evenings because of ‘reasonable’ prices compared with the price in supermarkets.
Pemba South Regional Commissioner Hemed Suleiman Abdalla has also called on traders in his region to observe hygiene in support of the global war against the spread of coronavirus as Mufti office (responsible for Muslim affairs) directed Imams (leaders in mosques) to shorten mass prayers.
Sheikh Khalid Ali Mfaume- Secretary, Mufti office emphasized that the on-going restrictions on gathering only aim at containing the COVID-19 as directed by health experts fighting the virus.
Last Wednesday, the Isles Health Minister Hamad Rashid Mohamed said Zanzibar was joining the global war against coronavirus by suspending learning in all institutions of learning after confirming the first case of coronavirus here.
He said one of the three people: A Ghanaian, Germany, and a Tanzanian whose sample were taken to Dar es Salaam for testing had tested positive. The Ghanaian aged 24 entered Zanzibar from Germany on March 11, 2020.
UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) statement on the containment of coronavirus covid-19 says tourism’s continued growth and unique transformative potential is dependent upon stability and international solidarity. The sector must, therefore, always put people and their wellbeing first.
The decision to cancel this year’s ITB Berlin on public health grounds shows that tourism is living up to its responsibility to put people first, and that tourism is one of the leading economic sectors in the world. It is also a key driver of sustainable development and supports millions of livelihoods worldwide.
UNWTO will continue to work closely with its partners, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), to ensure the tourism sector responds to an evolving situation in a measured and responsible manner.
At the same time, UNWTO stands ready to support its members as they plan for the future and harness the power of tourism to drive economic and social recovery.