• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Top six tourism destinations in Africa by revenue post Covid

african tourism

As the haze of the COVID-19 pandemic cleared, global economies tallied their losses, with border closures and movement restrictions dealing a severe blow to the global tourism industry.

Even in pre-pandemic times, Africa struggled to claim a significant share of the global tourism pie. The affluence of natural attractions, cultural richness, and intriguing history did not make the first or second choice for most travelers.

The pandemic exacerbated this situation, resulting in a drastic decline in tourism revenue across the continent, with many countries reporting only a fraction of their earnings compared to 2019. Additionally, the Russia-Ukraine war disrupted the tourism value chain.

Nevertheless, amid these challenges, several African nations have managed to attract pockets of willing tourists, defying the odds.

Leading this is Egypt, with its iconic cities, pyramids and rivers, which attract tens of billions of dollars in tourism receipts annually.

We delve into the African countries with the most international tourism receipts in post-pandemic recovery.

1. Egypt

Egypt leads the charge for most international tourism receipts in Africa recording $12.2 billion in tourism revenue as of 2022, according to the UN’s global and regional tourism performance report.

When COVID hit, Egypt’s revenue dropped to $4.4 billion in annual receipts, 66 percent less than the previous year when the North African nation raked in $13 billion.

In response, the government implemented strategic approaches for a comeback. Initiatives like the website facilitating pilgrimage bookings to Mecca and Medina have protected Egyptians from exploitation by brokers charging high fees.

The government’s focus on upskilling human resources in the sector, along with infrastructure development, regulations, and marketing efforts paved the way for expanded outreach to international markets.

Additionally, diplomatic efforts and trade agreements have notably increased visitors from countries such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Since then, the country’s tourism sector has risen back to life, employing over three million people.

Even more impressively, in 2023, Egypt achieved an additional 11 percent increase in tourist numbers compared to 2019, which was considered the peak year for global tourism.

2. Morocco

Following closely behind Egypt is Morocco, whose continental affiliations are still debated. The North African nation recorded $9 billion in annual revenue, according to UN tourism reports for 2022.

Morocco took a big hit in 2020. International receipts plunged 53.66 percent from the previous year and stood still in the year that followed. Morocco’s recovery finally took shape in 2022 crossing the $9 billion threshold, its highest in 12 years.

The country only began reopening its borders in June of 2021 to attract foreigners and support its ailing sector. In the same period, Morocco relaunched Operation Marhaba, an annual initiative that facilitates the return of Moroccans residing abroad for summer vacation.

The government organised special flights to facilitate diaspora Moroccans into the country as part of the operation.

This proved successful in jumpstarting its tourism sector. In just ten months, the sector recovered 84 percent of tourists compared to 2019, hitting higher than the global average recovery rate of 63 percent.

Last month, Morocco launched the 2023-2026 roadmap, an extensive measure to revamp the country’s tourism sector.

3. South Africa

South Africa’s tourism sector has experienced slowed growth since the pandemic. Before 2020, the country’s tourism sector thrived compared to its African peers.

For 10 years since 2010, South Africa’s international tourism receipts reached an $8 billion threshold, greatly exceeding it in some years. An unprecedented COVID dropped earnings by 70 percent which went down even further in 2021.

In response, the government of South Africa devised a Tourism Sector Recovery Plan to help the industry “recover to 2019 output and employment levels by 2022.” The plan encompassed three phases including protecting and rejuvenating supply, matching supply and demand, and growth interventions.

Though South Africa has yet to see the full outcomes it expected, the country’s resilience and adaptability have been evident. The sector still rakes in $4.8 billion and continues to grow.

4. Tanzania

Home to Mount Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar sights, and several national parks, Tanzania serves as a convenient destination for tourists in Africa. UN tourism data shows that Tanzania recorded $2.5 billion in international tourism receipts in 2022, a 92 percent rise from the previous year and 257 percent from 2020.

In 2021, Tanzania hosted the first East African Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE) that focuses on promoting tourism attractions in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Southern Sudan and enabling B2B engagements.

Samia Suluhu Hassan, who was sworn in as president in the same year prioritised the sector’s rebranding, making appearances in the media and even starring in an international documentary to draw attention to Tanzania’s vast tourist attractions.

Though the country’s current tourism revenue compares only fairly to peers, the country of 60 million people has managed to recover to pre-pandemic periods when it recorded $2.28 billion in average revenue.

5. Tunisia

In the 10 years to 2020, Tunisia earned an average of $1.9 billion in international tourism receipts. In 2020, when it closed its borders, revenue from the sector dropped 57.1 percent to $900 million and climbed slowly to $1 billion in 2021.

Since then the government took action to revive the sector and attract new and loyal visitors, especially Europeans from the East who had lesser travel restrictions.

The country’s immigration also restricted requirements for tourists who arrived in groups to a proof of negative PCR test, which increased arrivals from the region to 10 flights per week, unlike other travelers, who must self-isolate for five to seven days in government-assigned hotels at their own expense.

These and other incentives by the Tunisian government managed to raise its international tourism receipt in 2022 to $1.7 billion according to the UN Tourism report.

6. Mauritius

The small island of Mauritius in the far east of Africa is home to 1.3 million people and a tourist destination for its waterfalls, vast greenery and mild tropical climate.

Mauritius, like many other African countries, was impacted by the covid 19 pandemic and has only begun to recover lost revenue with its tourism sector, accounting for 18.6 percent of its total exports in 2022.

In the 10 years to 2020, Mauritius averaged $1.5 billion in international tourism receipts. When movement halted, so did the money coming in. At the height of the pandemic, the country salvaged $400 million in tourism receipts which stood still in the year that followed.

It was in October of 2021 that the country lifted travel restrictions and fully reopened its borders to the vaccinated. The sector, which had contributed 10% on average to the nation’s GDP annually, returned to familiar figures.

To reinvent the local tourism value chain, the UNDP Mauritius and Seychelles Accelerator Lab began testing hypotheses about the country’s ability to attract more senior tourists and digital nomads, including financing a 10-year Electric Vehicle Integration Roadmap, and upholding a sustainable and inclusive tourism model respectful of the cultural and ecological nature of the island.