June 30, 2021
3 Min. Read

Travel in Covid Times

When the world stood still, Zanzibar was wide open. Now that the world is slowly opening up, Zanzibar has introduced testing. What’s next? Prominent island voices share their experiences and outlooks.

What’s next?

Julia Bishop, Vice Chair, Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI)

“Many agree, that Zanzibar has just had 5 months of economic salvation. Tanzania kept its borders open to flights from Russia and Eastern Europe. We were about the only winter destination they could travel to. We welcomed anyone from anywhere, no questions asked. Controversial it may have been, but it paid off. Our arrival statistics were almost as good as in pre-pandemic times – a decrease of mere 7 per cent while other holiday destinations the world over lost up to 90 per cent!

The mainland also benefitted a little from the Zanzibar boom, as the normal tide of bush to beach traffic turned the other way. Then, as expected, Eastern Europe deserted us to return to their previous shorter-haul routes in North Africa and the East. What’s next?

With new leadership came a shift of policy. What we see happening now is definitely heartening: A short-term pain – Covid tests required to enter - is a long-term gain. Tanzania is no longer the un-compliant country. That may eventually even take us off the global travel 'red lists'.

Caught up in their various domestic pandemic dramas, many countries are not yet ready to let their citizens travel widely. The normal charters from Italy, Belgium and Germany are not yet ready. As vaccine rollout progresses we could expect to be optimistic. But is that optimism reflected in our hotel bookings? Are we on the brink of a tsunami of travel-starved last-minute tourists? I have the feeling that if there is to be a tourism summer 2021 here, it may be later than usual - beginning in July/August, building in September, culminating in a triumphant Christmas and New Year 2022.”

What hoteliers say 

Andrea Knorova, luxury Zuri Resort, Nungwi: “Half of our capacity is sold, many re-bookings from previous year. Looks like high-end Russians have moved to Seychelles. Great demand from Emirates/ Dubai. Europe is slowly waking up. – Anwar Beiser, middle-class Blue Oyster Hotel,, Jambiani:” So far only 10% bookings for July and August, but we are patient and wait for “Last Minutes”. We strongly support the new Covid-19 rules in Zanzibar.” Leonie Kaack, budget New Teddy’s on the Beach, Jambiani: “I am sure we’ll be full from July. Cancellations from last year want to come now. Even May was good.”

Best flights 

Andrea Tapper, editor THE FUMBA TIMES: “Newcomers like Eurowings Discover, a daughter of Lufthansa, is digging into East Africa, its first flight scheduled for 24 July `21, twice weekly. Trusted and reliable “oldies” are Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian, Qatar and KLM flying to and from Zanzibar. While every frequent flyer will have his favourites, the pandemic was a test: safety, reliability, easy refunds, fast connections, seating comfort. KLM stuck to an appropriate seating order. Emirates disappointed switching to low-cost Fly Dubai. Oman Air let people struggle for months for refunds. I am most convinced of Turkish Airlines: 40 kg luggage, easy refund, unlimited changing rights, super connections in Istanbul to 11 German cities, airport shops open, great cabin crew. Return fares start at €519 economy, €2125 for business. I found it well worth treating myself to business; 1,50 m distance between rows makes you feel safe and sound. The entire plane was only half booked, good for the passengers, challenging for the airline. Spokesperson Tarik Neu assures: “Our Zanzibar schedule is stable”. www.turkishairlines.com

Best escapes 

Pooja Lalji, Rickshaw travel, Dar es Salaam: “Choose Dubai as a reasonable get-away from Zanzibar. 5 nights B&B, visit to Bhurj Khalifa, desert safari $410; 7 nights B&B $595 including a dhow cruise - explore  the difference between Zanzibar and bling-bling Dubai! Return flights starting at $410 from Dar. Closer to Home find quirky escape packages in Tanzania: Rejuvenation with Ayurveda including treatments at a beautiful nature retreat near Arusha, 2 nights/3 days, $450. Birdwatching & horseriding at gorgeous Wag Hill Lodge overlooking Lake Victoria near Mwanza, 2 nights ¢185. Rickshawtravels.com

142,263

tourists in Zanzibar, January-March ’21

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