Creating an Intra-African Tourism Map is Essential for Sustainable Economic Development

Twahafa Neshuku

Perceived as africa’s gateway to the world and vice versa, the African tourism market remains at the epicentre of global attention, offering unique travel opportunities to many global travellers.

It is no secret that Africa is a diverse continent with a rich cultural heritage waiting to be explored. Through this, tourists have a chance to experience Africa’s traditions, languages, cuisine and tapestry, not forgetting its most sought after natural landscapes, as well as flora and fauna.

For Africa to fully benefit from its tourism wealth, a significant opportunity lies in the economic benefits which intra-Africa tourism presents.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in intra-African tourism, as countries on the continent seek to promote travel and exploration within their borders. This trend presents a myriad of opportunities for both tourists and the local economies, creating an integrated tourism market for all Africans.

Every African has a unique story to tell and if more African youth can actively participate in innovative tourism, this would attract continental and foreign investment and boost local economies by creating jobs and supporting small businesses.

Targeted support, financial backing and investments – particularly toward tourism start-ups, small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs in tourism – will open doors and create many economic prospects for intra-African tourism, helping to shape sustainable African tourism.

The Namibian Tourism Satellite Account Report revealed that during 2022 the gross value added for the tourism industries in Namibia was estimated at 6,9%.

With a total national gross domestic product of N$206,2 billion in 2022, N$14,3 billion was contributed by the tourism sector. As a fast growing economic sector, African states should embrace and understand the economic impacts and prospects of independent and thriving tourism industries.

In the pursuit of forging a sustainable intra-African tourism map, priority should be given to domestic tourism.

Defined by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation as the activity of residents travelling to and staying outside their usual environments, it is essential for Africans to fully understand and shape their own tourism trajectory, with aims to package it continentally and globally.

Intra-African tourism has the potential to reduce the continent’s reliance on international tourism, as witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The decline in African tourism activity, which was outwardly held together by international travellers, is proof that by promoting travel within Africa, countries can diversify their tourism markets. This also reduces their vulnerability to external factors, such as global economic downturns or travel restrictions.

One of the key opportunities of intra-Africa tourism is the promotion of cultural exchange and understanding. Having just attended the sixth Africa Youth in Tourism Summit held in Windhoek, Namibia, I have witnessed the power of a shared African vision.

The summit connected and gathered African youth, as well as tourism and affiliated industry experts from across 40 African countries, both physically and virtually. The summit provided mentorship, coaching and value based collaboration, as well as a platform to explore and develop actionable solutions for Africa’s tourism sector.

Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions travel is also an important component for Africa’s tourism and hospitality industry, as it promotes more competitiveness among different destinations, creating unprecedented employment opportunities which will keep tourism alive in off seasons.

Overall, platforms such as these offer invaluable insights and needs assessments on current and future tourism trends, however, it also promotes innovation and tech as crucial vehicles propelling Africa’s tourism map.

In order to fully realise the opportunities of intra-Africa tourism, there are several key strategies that can be implemented. These include improving infrastructure networks, creating integrated digital footprints and promoting cross-border cooperation by addressing the existing and prospective barriers hampering intra-African tourism.

Essentially, marketing and innovation remains a necessary tool to promote and raise awareness of the diverse travel destinations within Africa. With the right strategies and investments, intra-Africa tourism has the power to unite Africans and transform the way the world sees the continent.

  • Twahafa Neshuku is a writer with a background in journalism and media studies. She is the founder of TTN Writing and Media Consulting.

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