In 2012, Africa raked in over $36 billion from tourism, and the figure continues to grow. The continent‘s natural assets: mountains, savannahs and rivers, beautiful white beaches, diverse wildlife and cultural events such as music, dance and festivals continue to attract millions of people from across the world who seek relaxation, entertainment and adventure. Currently, Africa
receives more tourists every year than the Caribbean, Central America and South America combined (source: UNWTO)!
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), ‘tourists in Africa come mostly from Europe and the US. France is the number one source, followed by the UK and the US. French tourists like to go to Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritius, Senegal and Madagascar. Tourists from the UK mostly go to Egypt, South Africa, Mauritius and Gambia, while those from the US prefer South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
Despite its huge potential and little‘ successes so far with the tourist industry, Africa has barely scratched the surface of what it can really do with tourism. Although its population accounts for 15 percent of the global total, Africa‘s share of tourism is just about 5.2 percent. This clearly indicates that there is still a huge potential for upside growth. So intra-African tourism and business travel is a trend you should surely focus on.
Apart from tourism opportunities within the continent, a growing number of middle- and upper-class Africans are travelling out of the continent to tourist destinations in Europe, North America and Asia. These African tourists, many of whom are first time travelers, have a preference for sightseeing, relaxation, shopping and adventure. As more Africans join the middle class, the size of this tourist segment will surely increase.
This huge and growing tourist traffic in Africa is a big opportunity for your business if you can organize affordable and convenient solutions to the tour and travel needs of the market. Recommending the best and most exciting destinations, organizing local logistics, tour guides and accommodation, and providing an unforgettable experience, will be valuable to tourists and it‘s a service they‘ll gladly pay for.
The concept you choose in this market is significant for your success, and here is why: Africa‘s tourist market is pretty well developed in the most popular tourist destinations and it is therefore very important that you do not choose a business model that looks like more of what is already out there. You can easily set yourself up for failure.
Instead, really try to fill an existing gap, tap into a growing trend, or create a new one. So instead of setting up another local tour company with little distinction, create an online travel booking portal, offer wellness retreats, cheap student travel for an underserved segment of the African population, or tours with a cutting edge that sells.
Honeymoon and vacation tours
Dare-devil and extreme adventure packages (could include bungee jumps, skydiving etc.)
Investment and trade mission tours
Affordable student trips
Top Countries & Policy Guidance
There are, of course, top destinations like Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, and Africa‘s beautiful islands. While it is still possible to carve yourself out a niche in these dynamic tourism markets, you may have better chances with destinations that are still very much developing, yet that are being increasingly popular: Botswana, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, for example.
Tourism is being actively promoted in most African countries and you usually find an enabling policy environment is in place.
Action & Tips
Visit the websites of the Ministry of Tourism and the top tour companies for certain countries to get first insights into what is being offered and what is popular. But search for independent sources to find out more about the gaps you could fill.
Consider if you want to serve primarily an international or an African market (intra-African travel is growing fast!), as your approach may need to change significantly when choosing one over the other.
Be aware of potential terrorist attacks and other external risks in certain countries as they may affect your business immediately if you focus primarily on those destinations. A regional approach and online booking options will mitigate the risk for your Africa travel business.
Marek Zmyslowski, Jovago (Poland/Nigeria)
Let‟s have a look at jovago.com, for example. The Nigerian online hotel booking site that was started in 2011 by a young Polish entrepreneur has today grown into Nigeria‟s biggest hotel portal. But its owner did not stop there as he grew his business, adding many more hotels across Africa. In fact, some of his „top destinations‟ – as we write this book – include several hotels in Pakistan! According to the website today, „the Jovago team comprises over a hundred people.‟
Jeffrey Mulaudzi, Mulaudzi Bicycle Tours (South Africa)
Another interesting business story is that of Jeffrey Mulaudzi, who showed a French tutor around his home town during a visit in 2010 to get to know the „real South Africa‟ away from the tourist sites. He then extended that idea during the World Cup, distributing leaflets in hotels the same year, and it was so popular and successful that he bought new bikes from the income to extend his tours. Today Jeffrey has three tour guides and hosts; his tours cost R200 (US$18.75) for two and a half hours, or R400 ($37.50) for four hours and include bikes, helmets, water, and lunch.
According to howwemadeitinafrica.com who published his story, participants also get to taste umqombothi, a traditional beer. During the tours interaction and communication takes place between the cyclists and the local community: „I want people to better understand and know what kind of people live in the township.‟ He also added a couple of historic Apartheid sites to the tour. Well, there‟s a thought – look how simple and wonderful a business concept can be!