Sitting in an office in Europe, one may think that Africa is only bad news and crisis. Yet, tourism is one of the key drivers of the African economy, representing 8.3% of the continent’s GDP in 2018. This is the second-fastest growing tourism region, after Asia-Pacific.
Ethiopia’s Travel & Tourism economy grew by 48.6% in 2018, the largest of any country in the world, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual review of the economic impact and social importance of the sector released in March. The Council stated that during the period, the sector supported 2.2 million jobs and contributed $7.4 billion to Ethiopia’s economy, an increase of $2.2 billion in 2017.
Maybe the Big Continent has some positives?
It is resilient to crisis. Africa has its share of crises – from social unrest in Ethiopia to political turmoil in Zimbabwe, security in Nairobi and environmental struggles in Cape Town; but the continent is actively and successfully working on building a stable environment for both locals and tourists.
After each of these crises the market recovered quickly; with an 8.5% GDP growth and 67 million tourists overall 2018 was not that bad!
The continent has un-spoilt beauties and offers the adventure and experiences Millennials seek when traveling. 67 million tourists in 2018 is a 7% growth when compared to 2017 and a 15.5% growth when compared to the 58 million tourists that visited the continent in 2016. Most governments are working on aggressive strategies to promote their country worldwide and on improving accessibility from Europe, Americas and Asia.
The number of direct flights from major cities, such as New York, Paris and London are growing and securing visas is becoming easier and cheaper. Although, why we need visas at all is another question? The implementation of the East African visa that allows travelers to apply for a visa online before visiting Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya has proven to boost tourism significantly in these countries, proving sometimes less is more. Africa counted 92 million passengers’ movements in 2018.
International tourism is not the only boost to African tourism. Domestic tourism is substantially increasing due in part to the African Continent Free Trade Area. Visas requirements are lifted for regional travelers and each of the countries must promote itself as a destination to regional travelers. In 2018, 56% of tourism spending in Africa was domestic spending. When you consider that most of the highest spending tourists will be from outside the continent this shows the importance of offering products and services to local and regional travelers.
Positive tourism trends should benefit hotels’ brands in the short and long-term and encourage most international management companies to make Africa a priority. Radisson Hotels, Hilton, Accorhotels, Marriott Hotels, Hyatt, Intercontinental all recently announced massive pipelines and objectives for the Big Continent.