The last two years have been extremely difficult for world tourism. It was a period of recovery for the sector after the covid 19 pandemic caused the worst crisis the global travel and tourism sector has seen in modern times. During this period, shutdowns, travel restrictions, consumer fears and economic downturns have led to a loss more than 62 million jobs and $4.5 trillion in tourism and travel activity worldwide. In all of this, the tourism sector in Africa has lost $87 billion.
Fortunately, things are back to normal. In some countries, the travel and tourism sector is growing more than it was before the pandemic. Digital travel and tourism services have been instrumental in this. According to United Nations World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals across Africa increased by 51% year-on-year in 2022. But it is not only international tourist arrivals that have increased significantly. There has also been an increase in intra-continental travel and tourism. This means more Africans are putting African destinations on their travel bucket list.
According to Travel and Tourism Development Index, 17 countries in the region have increased their travel and tourism development index. From blue economies to safaris, here are the top African countries with the fastest growing travel and tourism sectors.
The island nation of Mauritius is located on the southeast coast of the African continent in the Indian Ocean. It is supervised by the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometers (1,100 nautical miles) off the southeast coast of the African continent. Naturally, its body of water is a big part of its tourist attractions. Over the years, the economic diversification of the country has led to the growth of the tourism sector. The tourism sector explores heavenly beaches, African wildlife and attractive resorts. The country’s ability to exploit its tourist sites has made it one of the richest African countries.
According to the Travel and Tourism Development Index, Mauritius ranks 62nd in the world. Tourism revenue in the country hit an all-time high in 2022. According to AfDB, the sector contributes 24% to the country’s GDP and accounts for 22% of its jobs. According to Trade Economics, tourism revenue in Mauritius increased in October to MUR 5893 million from MUR 5128 million in July 2022. Mauritius currently ranks 62nd in the World Travel and Tourism Index.
South Africa’s natural and cultural diversity makes it a must-visit destination for international tourists. The country is rich in natural resources, such as its parks and nature reserves, landscapes, wildlife, non-recreational resources, and cultural resources, ranging from archaeological sites to entertainment facilities. It has also become a popular destination for business travelers. South Africa ranks as a relatively inexpensive travel destination, although the market caters to both budget-conscious tourists and those seeking a more luxurious experience.
In 2021, the sector’s contribution to South Africa’s GDP increased by 8.4% to just over R195 billion. The sector also recovered 20,000 travel and tourism jobs, up 1.9% to nearly 1.1 million. According to the Cape Town Tourism Authority, 74% more international tourists arrived in the city in April 2022 than in April before the pandemic. The sector is 68th on the global travel and tourism index. Travel and tourism industry in South Africa is expected to grow at an average rate of 7.6% per year over the next decade, far exceeding the 1.8% growth rate of the country’s overall economy. The sector is expected to create over 800,000 jobs over the next decade, rising to over 1.9 million by 2032.
Botswana tourism is centered around game reserves, wildlife and wilderness tourism. Its wild landscapes attract nature lovers from all over the world. Places like the Kalahari Desert and the lush Okavango Delta are almost always on tourist lists. The South African country is also home to abundant wildlife, including the black-maned lion and Cape buffalo. As a result, it is one of Africa’s premier safari destinations, known for its luxury camps and lodges.
The government of Botswana has since identified tourism as a sector that could help diversify the economy, relieving it of its reliance on commodities. In 2019, tourism accounted for 13.1% of Botswana’s GDP and 8.9% of its total employment. Last year, the government introduced Strategies, to help a faster recovery of tourism after the impact of the pandemic and to develop the sector. The policies targeted six main areas – event tourism, cluster development, cultural tourism development, community project development, community projects and dam tourism. Botswana ranks 76th in the world on the Travel and Tourism Index. The country is also keen to promote ecotourism and sustainable tourism.
Tourism in Kenya is the second largest source of foreign exchange earnings, after agriculture. It is home to one of the most authentic safari destinations in the world, with attractions ranging from sandy coastal beaches, diverse flora and fauna, game parks, cultural heritage and scenic landscapes. Over the years, Kenya has remained a competitive destination among domestic and international tourists. Before the pandemic, the sector was 7.9% of the country’s GDP until 2019.
According to data from the Ministry of Tourism of Kenya, inbound tourism revenue between January and August 2022 increased to 167 billion shillings, or about $1.39 billion, from $691 million in 2021. Tourist arrivals to Kenya jumped 91% during this period. Kenya currently ranks 78th in the world on the Travel and Tourism Index.
Tanzania is an East African country known for its vast expanses of wilderness. This includes the plains of Serengeti National Park, a safari mecca populated by the “big five” (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino) and Kilimanjaro National Park, home to Africa’s highest mountain. It is also home to the tropical islands of Zanzibar, with Arab influences, and a marine park home to whale sharks and coral reefs. About 38% of Tanzania’s land area is set aside as protected areas to conserve these areas.
Before the pandemic, tourism was the largest foreign exchange earner, the second largest contributor to the country’s GDP and the third largest contributor to employment. In 2021, travel and tourism contributed US$5.4 billion to Tanzania’s GDP. This year, Tanzania recorded a 62.7% increase over the previous year, with 742,133 visitors between January and July. Tanzania ranks 81st in the World Travel and Tourism Index.