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    Friday, July 16, 2021

    Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Women in Tourism

    By Maureen Odunga

    Tourism sector is among major sources of employment, tax revenue, and foreign exchange earnings in Tanzania.

    Statistics show that in the previous year, the tourism sector accounted for more than 17 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), creating more than 1.5 million direct jobs, both permanent and temporary.

    The Chief Executive Officer of Hotels Association of Tanzania (HAT), Mr Kennedy Edward described tourism as a significant employer, noting that estimates show at least 70 percent of employees in the tourism sector, specifically the hospitality industry accounts for women.

    With the unfolding of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a major fall in tourism activity around the world, including Tanzania.

    According to a renowned economist-cum-banker, Dr Hildebrand Shayo, the unusual Covid-19, which is one of its kinds in modern history, has impacted people and businesses worldwide, triggering a global economic crisis that was unexpected amidst other economic challenges the world was facing.

    Dr Shayo identified that a substantial decline in the arrivals of overseas tourists in Tanzania in 2020 impact has spread into the banks that in one way or another loaned to these sectors.

    "In fact when I look at it in the bigger picture, the pandemic has not only affected us economically, but also politically and socially," explained Dr Shayo.

    He disclosed that the number of infected cases is argued to be rising following the 3rd wave of Covid-19 that might be triggered with the implementation of certain measures and campaigns like social distancing, extended lockdowns or work from home or mandatory- quarantine and curbs on crowding, pressure will be created and this will halt the tourism business.

    He, however, noted that such measures will also affect the tourism industry that benefits many other sectors like lodging, catering, transportation, retail, entertainment, arts and so on, that contributes to economic growth.

    Globally, women are most affected by the pandemic and have suffered more job layoffs than men in the unpredictable and changing society.

    A study by Lin Chen relating to women working in the hospitality industry and Covid-19 identify that women employed in hospitality possess poorer quality jobs, with lower pay and fewer career opportunities than men.

    According to Chen, such is owed to the glass ceiling associated with the absence of gender equality, women's underrepresentation in executive management teams and negative gender-based stereotypes related to women's presumed domestic skills and the feminized nature of many jobs.

    Employees of a popular five-star hotel in Dar es Salaam's Commercial Capital have attributed the pandemic as a life wrecker, as ordinary systems have been disrupted as the earnings are no longer a reality.

    A hotelier, Judith Ephraim points out that Covid-19 has affected all her plans due to shrinking earnings as the employer can only manage to pay a part of the salary.

    Because what she is currently earning is not enough to suffice her needs, Judith has resorted to engage in small business to be able to settle daily bills.

    "Generally, the pandemic has ruined our life systems, the small salary has been scraped, taking into account that most of us had secured loans in banks, SACCOS and Village Community Banks (VICOBA) which we have to pay," said Judith.

    On the other hand, Hawa Abdallah who is employed in one of the five star hotels in Dar es Salaam, reveals that the hotel business has gone bad; they were not getting any visitors due to lockdowns and most borders being closed.

    Hawa observes that their employer was not earning enough to settle suppliers, pay bills, health insurance among the many operational costs, which has forced him to introduce a rotational system, whereby a person is paid on the days and work done.

    She pointed out that the earnings have become less to support the upkeep of the family, life has become uncertain due to the disease threats, saying everything has gone bad. "One has to pay rent, school fees, transport to and from work among the many bills... this is affecting us even psychologically due to the trend of the disease, since you cannot predict what tomorrow will hold," she says.

    Dr Shayo is of the view that possible future effects are here to stay for a while. Tourism is and has been a major source of revenue and employment in Tanzania. It is a generator for employment, income, tax collections and foreign exchange earnings.

    "Hence as this sector becomes extremely competitive amidst the envisioned new wave of Covid-19, accurate tourism demand projection is vital to make an appropriate national strategic and operational decision.

    Strategic decisions within the government and responsible ministry would help in planning for opening attractions, modes of transport, accommodation, and tourism promotion for which enormous investment is required," Dr Shayo revealed.

    He said given the Covid- 19 effects, tourism is such a highly affected sector compared to other sectors, and the sector may remain affected in the long term, approximately more than1 ½ to 3 years from now.

    Based on the prevailing scenario, it is essential to measure the losses due to viruses so that policies can be restructured to manage tourism activities.

    If we cannot adopt our set up to accommodate these changes, changes will have far reaching effects on the Tanzanian tourism sector and the whole economy will suffer as a result.

    In his view, the CEO of the Hotels Association of Tanzania (HAT) said most operators have opted for various mechanisms on survival basis, whereas some have opted to close down and others gone for business which can work depending on locality.

    "Everyone is working to survive throughout the 15 months of somewhat unstable business, and prospects show this year to be very unpredictable. "Based on the current rates, it's easy to tell how business will perform due to the trend of the new variant of the disease, cancellation may be anticipated," noted Mr Edward.

    Much as the present year might be better than the previous one, he said recovery of the sector in the future needs major transformation. He said that Covid-19 is a clear proof that the many challenges facing the tourism sector require the attention of government and stakeholders.

    Among such challenges include multiplicity of taxes, noting that the government has so far waived two taxes but there are more other areas, including levies, fees and cost of doing business which is too high.

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