As vaccinations surge in the western world, and sputter or haven’t even started in the developed world, we got a preview yesterday of the travel/tourism battle between the haves who want to travel to the have-nots’ paradises. Let’s hope it settles down fast.
Masterful statistics forced the UK several days ago to “red list” Kenya, effectively banning all visitors between the two countries.
Kenya’s Daily Nation charged in an angry oped Sunday that Britain was punishing Kenya for refusing to close down its air routes with South Africa, its principle trading partner on the continent. The Nation said that UK scientists argue that Kenya is the principle route of the South African variant into the rest of the world.
A day after Kenya was red-listed, the Kenyan government banned all UK visitors.
Kenya is among the most forward-looking, modern African countries yet it has been able to vaccinate less than 1% of its population so far. Despite aggressive debate within the country and at angry foreign convocations organized by WHO the government has admitted that there is little hope that more than a third of the population will be vaccinated before mid-2023.
If this is the case with dynamic, open Kenya, one can only imagine what it is elsewhere on the continent.
(Completely unlike virtually all the rest of the continent, South Africa predicts two-thirds of its population will be vaccinated by the end of this year.)
Kenya’s tit-for-tat with the UK makes little economic but a lot of political sense. I see it as Kenyan pride that they know how much Brits normally travel to its country during the traditional European summer vacation season.
‘If you won’t give us vaccine, we won’t give you beaches.’
Unfortunately, of course, the gambit will be far worse in the long run for Kenya than Britain. Most of Kenya’s modern goods from shampoo to smart phones come through Britain, as do agricultural and health care products.
Kenya sells more tea to the world than any other single country, and a huge portion is directed via London.
I don’t think Kenya will be able to sustain this.
Of course this dispute reveals a far more important grievance than Mother Britain calling out her child’s indiscretion. The poor are once again shifted to the back of the line for no good reason other than they’re poor.
There are encouraging signs from America that the Biden administration will soon begin distributing more vaccines than promised to the developed world. But this distribution remains defined as “excess” and even begs the science that this is a global virus, and that it will continue to effect all of us hopelessly until it is controlled globally.
Scaling down the moral and ethical ladder to tourism, it means that tourism is headed for a rougher recovery than I first thought. There will certainly be more hurdles for us travelers to jump through than I expected.
Hopefully this little spat will settle down quickly and Kenya will eat its pride so that it can also eat microwavable Shepherd’s Pie. That’s much more likely than Britain or any of the rest of us in the developed world sacrificing some of our vaccine before we’re healthy and ready.