In part 2 of our international tourism blog series, we looked at currency exchange rates and their effect on tourism. In today’s post, we turn to the tourism industry in Sub-Saharan Africa, and its future outlook. For many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, tourism presents a great opportunity for economic growth. Since 1990, the number of tourists arriving in Sub-Saharan Africa has increased by over 300%, and the tourism industry now accounts for almost 3% of the region’s GDP. As more governments realize the industry’s growth potential, the competition for foreign visitors continues to increase, making the next decade an interesting one for the entire region.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s most visited country is South Africa, which attracted over 9.6 million tourists in 2013. The South African government has increased promotion and spending on tourism in recent years, as officials hope that South Africa can soon become a top 20 destination for tourists worldwide. Tourism makes up 10% of South Africa’s GDP, and many see the industry as a way for future economic growth, including the country’s current president, Jacob Zuma. In a recent State of the Nation address, President Zuma focused directly on the tourism industry, promising that the industry is a priority for the government. Similar to many countries in the region, the South African government has to address various issues that can hamper tourism, such as corruption, instability, and inadequate infrastructure.
One of the biggest issues many Sub-Saharan countries have to deal with is the uncertainty that surrounds much of Africa for international travelers. This issue was highlighted during last year’s Ebola outbreak, as tourism throughout Africa declined, even though the outbreak only affected countries in West Africa. For example, many safari trips ran at only 60% capacity during the fall season, even though they are located over 3,500 miles from the outbreak. Another issue that has affected tourism is political instability, as seen in countries such as Zimbabwe. The number of international visitors in the once popular country dropped sharply following government upheaval and an economic downturn, and the country is still trying to recover.
Although there are many challenges that Sub-Saharan African countries face regarding international tourism, the future still holds great potential. Countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda have begun to place a greater emphasis on growing the number of international visitors to their respective countries, as they see many benefits tourists can bring to a region. With the many attractions Sub-Saharan Africa can offer, such as the beaches at Cape Town, the exotic animals on safari adventures, and the falls at Victoria, the region could be on the verge of great future growth, as long as the governments throughout the region make the necessary investment needed to attract international travelers.