African countries can boost their tourism revenues to €231 billion in 2030, almost double the €121 billion from 2015. To make that happen, countries will have to put tourism at the top of their agenda and develop strategic plans. Scientists of the Brookings’s Africa Growth Initiative have compiled a list of do’s and don’ts.
In most African countries, tourism is still at an early stage of development. Countries such as Gambia, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania are putting significant efforts into advancing travel and tourism development. Also, Botswana, Rwanda, and South Africa are working particularly hard to improve their business environment for tourism investment, says the report.
To become just as successful as Mauritius and Seychelles, countries on the continent will need to unlock their full tourism potential. In their ‘Africa’s tourism potential: Trends, drivers, opportunities, and strategies’ report’, international Africa and tourism experts analyse ways for Africa to benefit more from international travel and tourism.
A lot to gain
There is a lot to gain. Over the next 10 years, the World Travel & Tourism Council predicts that tourism may create at least 3.8 million new jobs on the continent – increasing the size of the industry by roughly 30 percent. Long-term projections estimate that arrivals on the continent will continue to grow by an impressive 4.4 percent through 2035 – from 120 million to 280 million domestic and international travellers each year. “All these signal enormous potential for returns to investment in tourism in the coming decades, and Africa is getting ready to reap the benefits”, the Brookings report states.
A number of pan-African institutions have taken important steps. For example, the African Union has endorsed the continent’s Tourism Action Plan (TAP) of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA). The TAP views tourism development as a top priority and aims to make Africa the destination of the 21st century. More action is seen in the 15-member West African ECOWAS region. They have introduced a visa policy that enables free movement of people across member states, offering a larger market to international travelers. But countries need to do much more to fully tap Africa’s potential in the tourism industry.
What to do?
According to the experts, countries need to be aware how tourism investors think. “They look at the most lucrative countries for investment, which are those in which governments have explicitly targeted tourism as a sector to empower through policy reform. These countries are also the most likely to facilitate improvements in transport, utilities, and capital and land availability that will promote rapid growth in the sector.”
One of the most important strategies for the promotion of tourism is a country’s current visa regulations. “In contrast to other regions, African countries are not as visa-open vis-à-vis each other”, the report states.
What kind of tourism?
Beach and safari tourism, two of the most popular subsectors for international travelers, are already central features of the most developed tourist destinations on the continent, namely East and Southern Africa, and they are rapidly spreading to other regions.
“The nature and adventure tourism market is also becoming more saturated due to unique offerings like dune-boarding in Namibia, volcano trekking in the DRC, camel expeditions in Mali, lemur tracking in Madagascar, and whitewater rafting on the Nile in Uganda. In fact, this submarket is currently experiencing the most rapid growth in worldwide travel, and the relative under-development of the tourism industry in Africa makes the region particularly appealing to these kinds of travellers.”
The report adds one specific type of tourism that may reap high rewards: diaspora tourism, a unique subsector of African tourism, offers descendants the opportunity to visit historic sites and memorials and to experience the culture of their ancestors. “Cultural heritage tourism is one of the fastest-growing markets worldwide; presently, roughly half of all international leisure travel has a cultural component.
This sector has enormous potential in Africa due to its rich traditions in music, dance, art, and architecture, and it has already contributed to the development of burgeoning tourism markets in Ethiopia, Cape Verde, and Mali.