TOURISM IN AFRICA: AN UNTAPPED GOLDMINE?

There can be no doubt in any­one’s mind, es­pe­cially sea­soned trav­ellers, that Africa has a vast and di­verse of­fer­ing of tourist at­trac­tions, a very rich cul­tural her­itage and nat­u­ral beauty – and yet, the feel­ing re­mains that Africa is an untapped goldmine

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Special Feature | Tourism In Africa - Words: BRUCE GER­MAINE

this comes as no sur­prise as Africa is in a con­stant state of flux and in­no­va­tion rang­ing from Africa’s Com­mon Pass­port as a cat­a­lyst to boost­ing In­tra-Africa travel to grow­ing proud na­tional air­lines such as Air Mau­ri­tius, Kenya Air­lines, Rwanda Air, to im­prov­ing qual­ity and ac­count­abil­ity mech­a­nisms un­der South Africa’s Grad­ing Coun­cil. From ho­tel chain devel­op­ments in West Africa to the stag­ing of Africa’s pre­mier world travel ex­hi­bi­tions such as Africa’s Travel Indaba in Dur­ban, Meet­ings Africa in Jo­han­nes­burg and the World Travel Mar­ket (WTM) Expo in Cape Town, African tourism stake­hold­ers and role play­ers are col­lec­tively play­ing a very im­por­tant part in pro­mot­ing Africa's very untapped po­ten­tial.

With the United Na­tions pro­claim­ing this year as the “In­ter­na­tional Year of Sus­tain­able Tourism for De­vel­op­ment” in recog­ni­tion of the tremen­dous po­ten­tial of the tourism in­dus­try which con­trib­utes to ap­prox­i­mately 10% of the world’s eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, it is a most op­por­tune time for pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor role play­ers to pick up their game and for African coun­tries to fine tune co-op­er­a­tive agree­ments that will fos­ter tourism growth and give mo­men­tum to­wards tap­ping Africa’s huge po­ten­tial.

But can Africans af­ford to sit back and re­lax just yet ?

No, on the con­trary. Gov­ern­ment agen­cies such as South African Tourism, the of­fi­cial tourism mar­ket­ing arm of the South African gov­ern­ment, ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in var­i­ous tradeshows across the con­ti­nent such as the Mag­i­cal Kenya Travel Expo in Nairobi, Ak­waaba African Travel Mar­ket in Lagos, the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo in Kam­pala, the Swahili In­ter­na­tional Travel Expo in Dar Es Salaam and San­ganai World Tourism Expo in Bu­l­awayo.

“These mar­kets have been iden­ti­fied as be­ing in­te­gral to our man­date of mar­ket­ing the des­ti­na­tion and grow­ing ar­rivals. At these tradeshows, where other des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions and travel trade bod­ies and as­so­ci­a­tions are also present, we hold strate­gic talks with the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties to talk about this very topic: How to work to­gether for the ben­e­fit of the en­tire con­ti­nent,” says Margie White­house, Chief Mar­ket­ing Of­fi­cer at South African Tourism (SA Tourism).

“We know that tourism is one in­dus­try that can def­i­nitely help con­trib­ute to­wards build­ing and grow­ing an eco­nom­i­cally vi­brant and re­silient Africa, and that key to achiev­ing this is work­ing to­gether with other coun­tries on the con­ti­nent. There­fore, col­lab­o­ra­tion and part­ner­ships are cen­tral to our strat­egy of mar­ket­ing and pro­mot­ing tourism and, in so do­ing, en­sur­ing sus­tained growth in tourist ar­rivals.”

It takes two to tango with both pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tor stake­hold­ers lev­el­ling the play­ing field when it comes to in­no­va­tive pro­grammes to in­crease tourism num­bers. Un­der the stew­ard­ship of CEO Sabine Blehle, the GoVa­ca­tion Africa brand plans to con­sol­i­date its busi­ness by bring­ing more trav­ellers into Africa by virtue of its ex­ist­ing cus­tomer base un­der its hold­ing com­pany Tour­vest Des­ti­na­tion Man­age­ment (TDM).

“Tour­vest Des­ti­na­tion Man­age­ment (TDM) and its sub­sidiary, GoVa­ca­tion Africa, are Africa's lead­ing ver­ti­cally in­te­grated tourism en­tity, which is per­fectly po­si­tioned to take ad­van­tage of the po­ten­tial this con­ti­nent has to of­fer. Through our part­ner­ships glob­ally we have the abil­ity to mar­ket Africa through our ex­tended network and sales ac­tiv­i­ties. Strong and healthy re­la­tion­ships with key part­ners con­trib­ute pos­i­tively to­wards

ful­fill­ing our strate­gies ” says GoVa­ca­tion Africa CEO Sabine Blehle.

Sim­ply put, “this presents an op­por­tu­nity to grow travel into South­ern Africa and the rest of Africa with our sales and mar­ket­ing strat­egy lever­ag­ing off those cus­tomers that work with GoVa­ca­tion into dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions that are not on the African con­ti­nent and at­tract them to the con­ti­nent”, ac­cord­ing to TDM CEO Martin Wi­est.

In ad­di­tion, SA Tourism’s new “five in five” strat­egy ( i.e. at­tract five mil­lion ad­di­tional in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic tourists in the next five years) hopes to tar­get spe­cific re­gional and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets with mar­ket­ing cam­paigns to po­si­tion South Africa as an at­trac­tive, value-for-money des­ti­na­tion of­fer­ing a range of au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences.

Margie White­house from SA Tourism says:“We can­not grow South Africa’s tourism sec­tor in iso­la­tion from the rest of the con­ti­nent. Part­ner­ing with other coun­tries and the pri­vate sec­tor, and particularly with our African neigh­bours, is cru­cial if we want to el­e­vate African tourism to be­ing a ma­jor player on the global stage”.

No­mad Africa asked South African Tourism how Africa fares in­ter­na­tion­ally in terms of global tourism. “It’s fair to say that tourism is truly re­vi­tal­is­ing Africa – there was a 13% in­crease in in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to South Africa in 2016 and an 8% in­crease in in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to Africa as a whole last year, which is above the global av­er­age. This trend is con­tin­u­ing in 2017 and ac­cord­ing to the lat­est UNWTO World Tourism Barom­e­ter, des­ti­na­tions world­wide re­ceived 369 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional tourists (overnight vis­i­tors) in the first four months of this year, 21 mil­lion more than dur­ing the same months in 2016 (or an in­crease of 6%).” In­ter­est­ingly, the UNWTO (2015) fore­casts that be­tween 2010 and 2030, ar­rivals in emerg­ing des­ti­na­tions such as Africa are ex­pected to in­crease at twice the rate (+4.4% a year) of those in ad­vanced economies (+2.2% a year). This means that the num­ber of ar­rivals in emerg­ing economies is ex­pected to ex­ceed those in ad­vanced economies be­fore 2020. In essence, it sig­ni­fies great hope and vast po­ten­tial for ex­po­nen­tial tourism growth on the con­ti­nent.

Look­ing at re­gional mar­kets, although Africa has enor­mous po­ten­tial, there is still work to be done. With high stakes at play mem­bers of the West African Eco­nomic and Mon­e­tary Union (UEMOA) and the Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States (ECOWAS) have be­come de­ter­mined to make tourism a foun­da­tion of strong eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. Pri­vate sec­tor role play­ers in West Africa such as ho­tel mag­nate and pioneer of the pan-African Aza­laï Ho­tels Group Mos­sadeck Bally have in­vested back into Africa by es­tab­lish­ing the Chi­aka Sidibe Academy, pro­vid­ing ba­sic train­ing, pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, ad­vice and support in the UEMOA coun­tries such as Mali, Togo, Ivory Coast, Sene­gal, GuineauBis­sau and Burk­ina Faso. But if one looks be­yond the sur­face of pretty des­ti­na­tions, West Africa’s progress is be­ing ham­pered , ac­cord­ing to Mos­sadeck Bally, by “low vis­i­bil­ity on key mar­kets, poor road and rail net­works, in­ad­e­quate and ex­pen­sive air ser­vices and the ab­sence of in­sti­tu­tional and ad­min­is­tra­tive mech­a­nisms to pro­vide in­cen­tives. Gen­er­ally, the ho­tels and tourism sec­tor is not an in­vest­ment pri­or­ity, de­spite UEMOA di­rec­tives, and there are no com­pet­i­tive in­cen­tives in place (such as cus­toms or tax mea­sures) to at­tract in­vest­ment. The UEMOA states of­ten pri­ori­tise min­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing, in­dus­tries that add lit­tle value on a lo­cal scale.” “The re­gion’s in­sta­bil­ity also tar­nishes its im­age as a des­ti­na­tion and re­duces tourist traf­fic. This was the case in Mali and Guinea-Bis­sau, two coun­tries that suf­fered from mil­i­tary coups and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity in 2012 and 2013.”

This again was a re­cent case in point when Swedish na­tional Jo­han Gustafs­son and Bri­tish South-African Stephen McGowan were re­leased by al-Qaeda mil­i­tants in North­ern Mali after be­ing held cap­tive for 6 years. Both were the last 2 of an orig­i­nal group of 4 tourists that were cap­tured in a restau­rant in Tim­buktu in 2011 when a Ger­man na­tional was mur­dered. Sub­se­quently, a Dutch na­tional was freed in 2015 in a raid by French spe­cial forces, with the last 2 hostages be­ing re­leased this year after lob­by­ing by hu­man­i­tar­ian aid or­gan­i­sa­tion Gift of the Givers.

The Aza­laï Ho­tels Group CEO, Mos­sadeck

We know that tourism is one in­dus­try that can def­i­nitely help con­trib­ute to­wards build­ing and grow­ing an eco­nom­i­cally vi­brant and re­silient Africa, and that key to achiev­ing this is work­ing to­gether with other coun­tries on the con­ti­nent. There­fore, col­lab­o­ra­tion and part­ner­ships are cen­tral to our strat­egy of mar­ket­ing and pro­mot­ing tourism and, in so do­ing, en­sur­ing sus­tained growth in tourist ar­rivals.”

- Margie White­house, Chief Mar­ket­ing Of­fi­cer, South African Tourism Board (SA Tourism)

Bally pulls no punches: ”There are ad­di­tional prob­lems that com­pli­cate the sit­u­a­tion and re­strict ho­tel and tourism busi­ness, es­pe­cially in UEMOA and ECOWAS coun­tries. To be­gin with, ho­tel com­plexes are largely con­cen­trated in ur­ban ar­eas, ne­glect­ing ru­ral ar­eas, where in­fe­rior road, air and ho­tel in­fra­struc­tures re­strict do­mes­tic and leisure tourism. Train­ing for ho­tel per­son­nel in the UEMOA re­gion is also in­fe­rior, some­times non-ex­is­tent, which re­duces the qual­ity of the ser­vices they can of­fer. Fi­nally, un­of­fi­cial ac­com­mo­da­tion chains and fail­ure to ob­serve build­ing reg­u­la­tions have an im­pact on ho­tel occupancy rates and re­sult in loss of earn­ings.”

“The lack of a ded­i­cated financial struc­ture to de­velop the tourism sec­tor is also a prob­lem. A num­ber of fac­tors de­ter com­mer­cial and cus­to­dian banks from fi­nanc­ing the sec­tor: The ab­sence of long-term re­sources, a lack of spe­cial­ist ex­per­tise in tourism fi­nanc­ing, fail­ure to tai­lor credit agree­ments to pro­fes­sional needs, lack of con­fi­dence in credit agree­ments and high in­ter­est rates. Too of­ten, in­vestors still see tourism as a high-risk sec­tor.”

“The sit­u­a­tion is ex­ac­er­bated by two ad­di­tional fac­tors. On the one hand, op­er­a­tional costs are in­creased by taxes in the UEMOA mem­ber states and the high costs of ba­sic ser­vices such as wa­ter, elec­tric­ity and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. These costs are re­flected in the tourist’s bills, mak­ing ho­tel and tourism in­fra­struc­tures in the re­gion less com­pet­i­tive and at­trac­tive. Fur­ther­more, a lack of IT and in­for­ma­tion sys­tems is ham­per­ing growth in tourism. African ho­tels rarely fea­ture in CRS plat­forms and un­sta­ble in­ter­net speeds make it dif­fi­cult to process on­line pay­ments.”

So how do we solve this? The in­no­va­tive ho­tel mag­nate has come up with five key ini­tia­tives that are ear­marked to boost the re­gional tourism sec­tor. First is to de­velop the tourism of­fer across the re­gion by im­prov­ing vis­i­tor sites and ba­sic in­fra­struc­tures like air­ports, roads, ho­tels and ca­ter­ing. Se­condly, make UEMOA’s tourist des­ti­na­tions more vis­i­ble and com­pet­i­tive by pro­mot­ing tourism both in­ter­na­tion­ally and across the re­gion, and fi­nanc­ing in­vest­ment in tourism. The third ini­tia­tive is to in­tro­duce in­cen­tives to at­tract in­vest­ment in the sec­tor, es­pe­cially by im­prov­ing cur­rent mech­a­nisms. Mali has im­ple­mented a tourism growth strat­egy that strength­ens

its “In­vest­ment Code”. This in­cludes mak­ing na­tional funds avail­able, at­tract­ing for­eign cap­i­tal, cre­at­ing jobs, train­ing a qual­i­fied work­force, and de­vel­op­ing a frame­work for a suc­cess­ful sup­ple­men­tary econ­omy. In ad­di­tion, build new road, rail and air in­fra­struc­tures to open up tourist ar­eas and make them more ac­ces­si­ble to lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional tourists. Lastly, build ca­pac­ity among key play­ers in the sec­tor such as na­tional tourist bod­ies and con­sul­ta­tion and train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions, and set up a re­gional tourism in­for­ma­tion sys­tem. “Scrupu­lous man­age­ment and com­mit­ment to prom­ises are needed to win the con­fi­dence of fund­ing bod­ies like the IFC and Proparco. This is how the Aza­laï Ho­tels Group de­vel­oped its abil­ity to se­cure fund­ing,” says Mos­sadeck Bally.

(The IFC, a mem­ber of the World Bank Group, is the largest global de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tu­tion fo­cused on the pri­vate sec­tor in emerg­ing mar­kets with long-term fi­nanc­ing for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, lever­ag­ing the power of the pri­vate sec­tor to help end poverty and boost shared pros­per­ity. Proparco is a sub­sidiary of Agence Française de Développe­ment (AFD) fo­cused on pri­vate sec­tor de­vel­op­ment pro­vid­ing fund­ing and support to both busi­nesses and financial in­sti­tu­tions across Africa, Asia, Latin Amer­ica and the Mid­dleEast).

Ac­cord­ing to Mos­sadeck Bally, the tourism sec­tor also needs a ded­i­cated fund­ing mech­a­nism to support growth in ho­tel ca­pac­ity. A tourism in­vest­ment fund can be cre­ated to pro­vide long-term fi­nanc­ing to play­ers in the sec­tor.

“West African coun­tries should fol­low the ex­am­ple of Morocco, Tu­nisia and Mau­ri­tius, which are lead­ers in this re­gard. “

Look­ing at the com­pet­i­tive fac­tor within Africa’s tourism sec­tor, the 2017 World Eco­nomic Fo­rum Travel and Tourism Com­pet­i­tive­ness Re­port rates South Africa as the most com­pet­i­tive Sub-Sa­ha­ran African coun­try in tourism, ranked 53rd in the world, fol­lowed by Mau­ri­tius (55th), Morocco (65th), Kenya (80th) and Tan­za­nia (91).

Although Africa com­mands rich cul­tural and nat­u­ral re­sources, 29 mil­lion tourists vis­it­ing the Sub-Sa­ha­ran re­gion in 2015 is still re­garded as a low fig­ure, nev­er­the­less, Africa still of­fers a vast untapped busi­ness po­ten­tial.

In­ter­est­ingly, the re­port says a ma­jor fac­tor that con­strains tourism on the con­ti­nent is the fact that African house­holds have not seen the same kind of in­come in­creases en­joyed by, for ex­am­ple, Asian house­holds, re­sult­ing in only a frac­tion of African peo­ple be­ing able to af­ford to travel. It is a fact that in most ma­ture tourism economies, the bulk of their tourism rev­enue em­anates from do­mes­tic leisure travel, but this is hap­pen­ing in most African coun­tries al­beit where peo­ple are more likely to travel to visit friends and fam­ily rather than for hol­i­day pur­poses.

Ac­cord­ing to Margie White­house: “re­gional tourism mar­kets have im­proved, but are still un­der the in­ter­na­tional bench­mark when com­pared glob­ally. South­ern Africa re­mains the strong­est sub-re­gion, fol­lowed by East­ern Africa and then Western Africa. On av­er­age, East­ern Africa is the most im­proved re­gion, while South­ern Africa has ex­pe­ri­enced a slight de­cline.”

“The East African re­gional tourism bloc made up of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tan­za­nia has man­aged to suc­cess­fully col­lab­o­rate to build a re­gional tourism body that mar­kets and pro­motes the re­gion ver­sus in­di­vid­ual coun­tries. They also lobby col­lec­tively too.”

There is no doubt that Africa, with its vast beauty and splen­dour, and its rich cul­tural her­itage of­fers a huge ex­panse of untapped wealth in terms of tourism. It is up to African gov­ern­ments, re­gional play­ers, and all tourism sec­tor stake­hold­ers to ac­tively co-or­di­nate this po­ten­tial into a welloiled ma­chine, pool­ing re­sources, to part­ner and share and work col­lec­tively in

or­der to com­pete glob­ally.

The tourism sec­tor also needs a ded­i­cated fund­ing mech­a­nism to support growth in ho­tel ca­pac­ity. A tourism in­vest­ment fund can be cre­ated to pro­vide long-term fi­nanc­ing to play­ers in the sec­tor.

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