After weathering the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa’s tourism sector is stepping into the spotlight once again, with various nations implementing strategies to enhance their appeal to travellers.
International arrivals across Africa have already reached 88% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of the first quarter of 2023, as per data from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Notably, North Africa has exceeded its 2019 levels by 4% during the same period, indicating a strong resurgence.
Kenya is emerging as a frontrunner in this tourism renaissance by championing African integration. The country is dismantling visa barriers for fellow African citizens travelling for business purposes. With ambitious aims, Kenya envisions boosting its tourism numbers to a remarkable 10 million visitors over the next five years – a goal that would see arrivals quintuple compared to its best-ever recorded figure in 2019.
The new leadership at the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) is spearheading these efforts, focusing on quick wins to bolster arrivals. Chairperson Francis Gichaba stated, “The new board is starting its assignment when the tourism sector is quickly recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that put tourism on its knees.”
The recovery in Kenya’s tourism sector is already significant, with arrival numbers rebounding to 72.4% of pre-pandemic levels, far surpassing the global recovery figure of 63% according to the 2022 annual tourism performance report.
One striking facet of this resurgence is the removal of visa restrictions for citizens from several countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, and the Comoros. Kenya is fostering regional cooperation, while other nations like Botswana and Namibia have entered agreements to ease border crossings between their citizens.
Simultaneously, a wave of memorial tourism is sweeping across the continent. Countries are investing in restoring cultural and historical sites, breathing new life into locations of significant historical import.
Ghana, a trailblazer in this endeavour, is ambitiously aiming to attract a million tourists annually to the refurbished Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. This iconic cultural heritage site symbolizes Africa’s fight for independence, featuring a presidential library and Freedom Walk.
In Benin, a monumental memorial and tourist complex is taking shape at the historic slave trading port of Ouidah. The project includes a reconstructed slave ship, gardens of remembrance, an artisanal village, and a hotel. The effort seeks to make Benin a pivotal destination for diaspora tourists.
Egypt is undergoing a renaissance of its own, with archaeological museums and monuments undergoing facelifts. The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), expected to house over 100,000 artefacts, is on track to become the world’s largest archaeological museum complex by the end of 2023.
In addition to such initiatives, Egypt is implementing practical measures like multi-entry visas valid for five years, extended tourist visa durations, and cashless payments at museums to attract visitors and encourage longer stays. The country has projected over 7 million tourist arrivals between January and June, with expectations of hitting 15 million by the year’s end, a notable leap from the 11 million recorded in 2022.
As these nations pave the way for renewed exploration, Africa’s tourism sector is not just recovering; it’s rewriting its narrative, inviting travellers to rediscover the rich tapestry of its history, culture, and natural beauty.