Already worth $200bn, tourism could transform Africa, writes Rasika Sittamparam
Tourism in Africa is growing fast – expanding by 5.6 per cent in 2018 alone, compared to the global average of 3.9 per cent, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Increased stability in North Africa, the promotion of infrastructure-building by African governments and policy changes such as Ethiopia’s recent visa relaxation have all played a part in generating more than $194 billion in tourism for the continent’s economy.
There’s another important factor at play: tourism elsewhere is reaching saturation point. That’s according to Didier Dogley, the minister of tourism in the Seychelles, who tells Spear’s: ‘If you look at the global figures, Europe is saturated, America is not very far from that end, and Asia… most of the areas are now all opened up. The numbers are mind-boggling. Africa is the last frontier.’
And this is just the beginning. The continent’s tourism potential is untapped due to the lack of development in many countries, he says, particularly in areas such as transport, accommodation and food standards. ‘It’s always an uphill battle,’ Dogley says of construction projects such as airports, roads and boats. However, he is satisfied that the challenge of infrastructure is ‘slowly being dealt with’ by African governments and regional bodies. He cites the success of the Southern African Development Community, of which the Seychelles is part, in catalysing the tourism success of Kenya, Botswana and the ‘highly developed’ Namibia.
Dogley notes a welcome rise in African tourists visiting the Seychelles and the rest of the continent, thanks to the emergence of a young middle class in Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. ‘The numbers are not huge, and we’ve not been doing a lot of marketing, but the waves are steadily growing,’ he says. ‘It’s a matter of time before you see tourism in Africa take hold and grow exponentially.’