The African region is increasingly becoming a popular tourism destination, fuelled by strong economic growth and rising disposable incomes. At WTM Africa this week, Christy Tawii, research analyst at Euromonitor International, presented some of the key trends in tourism in Africa.
Inbound tourism continues to grow in Africa
“By 2020, international trips will reach the 1bn mark,” Christy explained, adding that Africa is slowly catching up with the rest of the world in terms of tourism with both leisure and business travel prospering. “Countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, recorded the largest growth in terms of inbound arrivals,” she said.
Christy explained that Africa has seen many obstacles, including issues with Ebola in West Africa, travel advisories in Kenya, and restricting immigration regulations in Southern Africa. However, despite these obstacles, the destination has continued to grow with arrivals steadily increasing.
Domestic tourism is gathering momentum
Domestic travel in Africa has considerably increased over the past few years. Christy explains that although many locals still lack the travelling culture and have the perception that travel is unaffordable, this mind-set has slowly started to change.
As the purchasing power of locals in Africa continues to increase, marketing initiatives for local travel have also picked up and the travel industry is increasingly offering packages aimed at African travellers.
Short-term rentals are popular
“Short-term rentals have started outperforming hotel bookings with higher growth numbers,” says Christy, adding that some hotel groups are now expanding to include short-term rental models. “The trend towards Airbnb is expected to intensify as people are looking for more affordable and personalised options.”
Despite the popularity of short-term rentals, Christy explains that hotels continue to dominate sales in Africa. Luxury international brands are also increasingly expanding their footprint in Africa as a result of foreign investment.
Online is flourishing but offline remains king in travel
Africa has seen an increasing penetration of mobile and online, but the truth is that travel intermediaries remain the trusted source of reservations and bookings for travel throughout Africa, says Christy.
She explains that online travel continues to record double digit growth, with dynamic performance across the board in different travel categories. As a result, travel industry players have started implementing multi-channel approaches instead of solely focusing on the offline channel. She says: “The rising penetration of mobile devices is pushing players to develop mobile apps as well as develop mobile responsive websites to capitalise on this trend.”
LCCs are gaining altitude
A key trend in the aviation sector in Africa is the increasing competition between LCC and legacy carriers, according to Christy. She says: “Legacy carriers still dominate sales, but LCCs have recorded the most dynamic growth. We’ve seen increasing capacity on popular routes, with as a result intensifying price competition.”
MICE offers great opportunities for Africa
The MICE sector is a new growth frontier in Africa boosted by business travel, Christy explains. The MICE sector is supported by high-spending business travellers, who are spending six times more than the average leisure traveller.
Says Christy: “Rwanda for example aims to get US$150m from MICE yearly to boost its tourism economy.”
Africa – more than just a safari destination
Many African countries are moving away from promoting Africa as traditional safari destination. Christy says: “We’ve seen sport tourism, cultural tourism and medical tourism being promoted, as well as many tailored packages for solo travellers.”
“Africa is a continent of opportunities with a lot of untapped potential,” concludes Christy. “All these untapped industries will bring more tourists to our shores.”