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Tourism boom for Africa

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Picture: The Gambia Tourism Board

By Chad Williams

In April, the Cape Town Tourism Authority said 74% more international tourists arrived in the city than in April 2019, before the pandemic started.

Travellers are returning to Africa, and, after the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns nearly obliterated a sector that contributes hugely to Africa’s GDP, these are welcome figures. International tourism’s start to 2022 was marked by an increased number of destinations across the world easing travel restrictions.

As most Covid-19 restrictions across the continent relaxed, various events and natural attractions continue to be the main drivers of the Africa’s tourism recovery.

For example, the tour of the International Cricket Council T20 World Cup trophy across Namibia has allowed the nation’s tourism industry a platform to highlight what it has to offer to the world, an executive said on Wednesday, citing a Xinhua News report.

“I think the tour, for us, is quite important as we’re getting to sell Namibia to the world, and they get to understand our flora and fauna,” Namibia Wildlife Resorts communications manager Nelson Ashipala said.

Meanwhile, the passenger traffic of Kenya’s Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) rose 32.7% in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year, amid increased economic activities, new data released on Thursday by the government statistics agency shows.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics said the Chinese-built railway carried 1.12 million passengers during the period, a significant surge from 754 313 in the same period last year. With September being national tourism month in South Africa, the Department of Tourism developed the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan with the tourism sector.

It contains a set of interventions to protect and rejuvenate supply, reignite demand and strengthen enabling capability to support the sector’s recovery.

According to industry insiders, Africa’s air passenger traffic is at 73.8% of pre-pandemic levels, with robust recoveries from three of the continent’s four sub-regions being dragged down by the loss of flight capacity in southern Africa.

Speaking at the Aviation Africa 2022 summit in Kigali earlier this year, Kamil Al-Awadhi, the International Air Transport Association regional vice-president for Africa and Middle East, pointed out that air traffic in East Africa had risen to 93.4% of July 2019 levels and North Africa to 93.1%, while West Africa had surpassed prepandemic levels by 8.7%.

“It is quite different in southern Africa where traffic remains over 36.5% lower than before the pandemic – although the reduced capacity can be attributed to airlines having gone out of business, one suspending its operations and what was the sub-region’s largest shrinking its fleet, network and schedule by more than 80%,” Al-Awadhi told Tourism Update, referring to the demise of SA Express and Air Namibia, the grounding of Comair’s regional fleet and the continued struggles at SAA.

Overall, international tourist arrivals have more than doubled compared to last year and Africa has registered a growth of 51% early this year compared to last year, though numbers remain way below the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, according to World Tourism Organization data.

Tourism has become vital to African economies. In 2019, the industry accounted for about 7% of Africa’s GDP and contributed $169 billion to its economy — about the size of the combined GDP of Ivory Coast and Kenya, according to figures by the World Bank.

*Williams is a multi-media journalist at the African News Agency (ANA).