Industry experts expect luxury travel in Africa to pick up post-COVID-19, however factors such as air access and medical infrastructure are holding the continent back.

Two webinars discussing the topic were hosted this week by ConnecTalks Africa and Ker & Downey Africa. Panellists during both sessions agreed that there was a rising trend of tourists seeking African destinations for post-COVID travel.

Africa had always been a sought-after destination for the luxury market, said Marcelo Novais, GM of Ker & Downey Africa DMC and Grand Africa Safaris, adding that African suppliers were well prepared for visitors once restrictions were lifted.

“Luxury properties have been designed to cater for luxury clients and ensure privacy as well as providing a highly personalised experience. In light of COVID-19, luxury suppliers are well prepared and have taken strict measures to ensure the health and safety of future guests.”

CEO and Founder of Irish-based operator Adams and Butler, Siobhan Byrne Learat, said post-COVID bookings from her upmarket client base seemed to show a trend of longer trips taken less frequently, with more emphasis on family travel.

According to Learat, clients are looking to get off the beaten track and reconnect with nature in an open space, making Africa a popular destination. However, potential clients are held back due to fears over medical infrastructure.

CEO of African Travel and Tourism Association, Chris Mears, said on this topic that it was promising to see several travel insurances offering medical benefits and cover for COVID-19.

Countries such as Tanzania and Namibia are either already open for travel, or have announced that travel will reopen soon. This raises the issue of air access, as South African airports, which are largely a gateway to the continent, have not indicated when they will reopen.

Mears pointed out that East African countries such as Kenya had well-established airports which, if opened for travel, could replace South Africa as the hub.