Tourism is a key driver of job creation as well as economic growth in emerging economies around the world.

Africa’s unique history and natural wonders have continuously drawn attention amid the global and local increase in heritage, cultural and development tourism.

An analysis of the business environment and governance of various countries indicates that African countries have enormous potential to remain or become dynamic hosts for entrepreneurs, investors and tourists, which can hinder the economic inclusion of young people and women and create employment opportunities for the low-skilled. workers.

International tourists visiting emerging countries generally inject significant amounts of wealth into host countries. National economies also get development aid from foreign governments.

In 2021, foreign direct investment (FDI) in the African continent stood at $83 billion, a record based on UNCTAD’s 2022 World Investment Reports.

Official development assistance amounted to 60 billion dollars while tourism generated 45 billion dollars and created more than 10 million direct jobs in the tourism sector.

Imminently, the tourism industry is playing an increasingly vital role in the global economy through its contribution to service exports, GDP and employment.

Investments in tourism are expected to reach an average growth rate of around 4.5% over the next decade and represent more than 5% of total investments. The share of total investment by the tourism industry in Africa is seven percent.

Over the next ten years, total investment in the tourism sector will increase at an average rate of 4.1%.

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However, despite the progress made in the tourism sector in Africa, much remains to be done to attract more investment based on the potential of the African continent.

More than twenty years ago, the African Union Development Agency adopted a key tourism action plan to ensure the visibility of tourism on the African continent. This came after a three hundred percent increase in international arrivals in 1990.

In 2000, there were 27 million arrivals. Since then, tourism has become an integral part of economic development policies.

Many countries have recently stepped up efforts to improve their tourism and tourism industries, including South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and The Gambia, to accommodate the estimated 60 million annual visitors. Kenya and South Africa remained the top destination points for tourists, securing tourism-focused investments at $450 million and $8 million respectively.

Why Africa has a lot of potential for tourism

The tourism industry plays a central role in the global economy. It contributes to gross domestic product (GDP), service exports and job creation. Each year, approximately one billion people travel abroad.

It is expected that by 2030, tourism-related leisure, hospitality and consumption expenditure in Africa will reach approximately $270 billion. Based on these trends, the travel and tourism industry has vital potential in Africa. The main reasons are that the continent is rich in cultural heritage and has vast natural resources.

Most countries in Africa are aware of the potential of tourism and have continuously developed strategic plans to ensure the development of the sector as a catalyst for development and economic opportunity. For example, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and The Gambia have made significant efforts to advance the development of travel and tourism.

On the other hand, countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Mauritius and Botswana are working hard to improve their business environment to foster an enabling environment for tourism.

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Sub-regional communities and the African Union have also put tourism at the top of their agendas. In particular, the African Union’s endorsement of the Tourism Action Plan was a milestone.

The Tourism Action Plan recognizes tourism development among priority sectoral strategies and aims to ensure that Africa is the desired tourist destination of the 21st century.

The fifteen ECOWAS members have also introduced an important visa policy which allows the free movement of individuals between member states, providing a wider market for international travellers.

Although improvements have been made in different areas, much remains to be done in the public and private sector to fully exploit Africa’s potential in the tourism industry.

Tourism in East Africa

East Africa is widely known for its exotic nature, stretching beautifully from rivers to lakes, as well as across the East African Rift Valley. East Africa is also rich in natural resources, cultural heritage and wild animals which act as the main drivers of tourist attraction.

Indeed, tourism is an important source of foreign exchange in East Africa, which makes a vital contribution to their economy. Tourism also plays a central role in creating job opportunities in East Africa. About 7% of employment in the region comes from tourism. All this leads to the accumulation of billions of tourism revenues which are injected back into the respective economies.

Undoubtedly, the tourism industry in East Africa has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in the region. Data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization had indicated that tourism levels had fallen by 87%, indicating how the virus was affecting one of the region’s most important economic drivers.

With the challenges, the tourism industry has indeed realized the potential of tourism to ensure maximum growth and the East African region is moving in the right direction to enhance efforts to strengthen the industry.

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The EAC is proud of its total commitment to fostering tourism in the region. He considers the tourism sector as an important operation for the economy, arguing that the sector contributes about 17% to export earnings and also contributes massively to GDP, amounting to 10%.

The East African region has the prowess of remaining the fastest growing hotspot for tourism in Africa, largely due to the EAC spirit of remaining united, led by member states. It is therefore up to individual economies to collectively levitate their tourism potential.

Tourism in Kenya

Tourism is the second largest source of foreign currency in Kenya. The Kenya Tourist Board is generally responsible for maintaining information regarding tourism in Kenya. Blessed with friendly local people, breathtaking scenery, a rich collection of wildlife and an ideal year-round climate, it’s no surprise that tourism in Kenya offers the one of the world’s most sought-after travel experiences.

Sports tourism, cultural tourism, ecotourism and beach tourism are all components of the tourism sector in Kenya. Kenya has had its share of challenges regarding tourism. For example, in 2007, after the controversial 2007 elections as well as the subsequent post-election crises of 2007-2008, tourism revenues declined significantly, dropping to 54% in the first quarter of 2007.

Revenues fell from KSH. 17.5 billion to KSH. 8.08 billion. Tourism revenue from China fell 10.7% and more than 50% from the United States and Europe.

There have also been instances of insecurity in the region, particularly along the Kenyan borders, affecting both international and domestic travel. However, Kenya has grown politically and since the political scenario of 2007, there has been post-election tranquility. Security has also been tightened, allowing Kenya to be the tourist destination of choice. Since 2008, the number of tourists has increased considerably. The increase had a positive effect on the economy.

The tourism sector contributed to GDP growth of 4.4% according to data from the Ministry of Tourism. The sector also accounts for 10% of economic output and employs over 2 million people.

Kenya has great potential to leverage tourism. The future of tourism in Kenya will depend heavily on wildlife conservation and marketing as the main attraction of tourism in Kenya is wildlife and of course food, music, fashion, sports, conferences, investor tourism.

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To achieve growth, the Kenyan government must exert great effort and protect game reserves and national parks and build strong emotional Kenya brand partnerships with all travel companies and nations of the world.

Chris Diaz
Business Leader and Brand Africa Trustee
Twitter @DiazChrisAfrica

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