Tourists and Tourism Products in Africa

Published on 26th February 2019

According to Christie et al. (2014)1 tourists to Sub-Saharan Africa can be divided into four main groups according to the purpose of their visit: leisure, business, visiting friends and relatives (VFR), or others. Leisure tourists make up approximately 36 percent of the market. Business travellers constitute about 25 percent of international arrivals. Data on tourists visiting friends and relatives is not collected by all countries but is likely to make up about 20 percent of arrivals.

The “other” category includes several important niches, such as sports tourism, visits for medical treatment, and attendance at meetings or conventions. 

There are three main categories of leisure tourists: 

 High-end tourists who book expensive once-in-a-lifetime trips to places such as Kenya, the Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania 

 Niche tourists who arrange overland or cross-continental trips and adventure, cultural heritage, diving, and bird-watching tours 

 Lower-end charter tourists who take holidays to beaches in The Gambia, Kenya, and Senegal. 

The UNWTO forecasts that 75 percent of all tourists to Africa will be intraregional African travellers by 2021. The pattern of short-haul travel in Sub-Saharan Africa is closely related to trading partners, nearest neighbours, relative incomes, and ethnic similarities. 

With respect to tourism products, Africa demonstrates a growing mix that is closely matching those of mature markets like the USA and Europe.  

Tourism Product Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Beach Tourism: Beaches are an important secondary product in East and West Africa but is losing appeal due to concerns about exposure to the sun. 

Business Tourism: Business travel is a growth area for Sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike leisure travel, the flow of business travel depends on the dynamism of the economic activity in the destination. Business tourists, on average, tend to spend more daily than the other categories of tourists and are less seasonal than leisure tourists.

Diaspora Tourism: Predominantly composed of African American in addition to intra-Africa diaspora.

Nature and Adventure Tourism: Africa’s varied terrain and remote locations make it an ideal location for many nature-based adventure sports. Dune boarding in Namibia, nature tourism in Zambia, camel expeditions in Mali, cultural heritage tours in Ethiopia, kayaking on the Zambezi River, and lemur tracking in Madagascar offer new adventure opportunities. 

Cultural Heritage Tourism: Given Sub-Saharan Africa’s rich traditions in music, art, and dance, cultural tourism presents a substantial opportunity for growth. Already, Ghana has marketed itself as a heritage destination by making its slave trade monuments into tourism destinations; Mali and Senegal have promoted their music festivals; Burkina Faso, through its film festival, which is attended by people from all over the world, has created a cultural product from a national passion. Tourists are particularly attracted to United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. Developing cultural heritage opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa will involve identifying potential sites, establishing preservation plans, and ensuring that existing sites are managed better.

Domestic Travel: Growth in gross domestic product per capita has led to the emergence of a new middle class of African consumers who have discretionary income to travel. Under the right conditions, the tourism sector can tap this wealth. Currently, domestic travel in South Africa is contributing to tourism growth; Kenya has already given priority to domestic travel, and Ghana and Zimbabwe are starting to do the same.

Intraregional Tourism: More than 10 million people are traveling across national borders every year within Sub-Saharan Africa for business meetings and conferences, medical reasons, religious journeys, shopping, sports events, and visiting friends and relatives. South Africa is the largest source of intraregional leisure travellers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria is a potential regional tourism powerhouse, and Kenya also shows potential as a large source market for intraregional travel.

Wellness, Health, and Retirement: Opportunities for wellness, health, and retirement tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa are growing. South African hospitals are a draw for intraregional visitors, and Mauritius and the Seychelles leverage wellness opportunities in their marketing campaigns. Cabo Verde has attracted second-home buyers.

1.Christie, I. T., Fernandes, E., Messerli, H., & Twining-Ward, L. (2014). Tourism in Africa: Harnessing tourism for growth and improved livelihoods. Washington, D.C: The World Bank. Retrieved from 100Box385230B00PUBLIC0.pdf?sequence=1

Courtesy: African Organisation for Standardisation | ARSO

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