Reimagining African travel
31 May 2016 TRAVEL
By Nomali Cele
Tourism has had a big part to play for African economies. A World Economic Forum 2015 report said that the African countries that are most tourism-ready include Seychelles, Cape Verde, Botswana, Rwanda and Namibia. On the list, South African is ranked first, which could have changed in the past few months.
There are a number of untapped avenues that could help reshape the way the world views travels to Africa.
There’s more to see than the big five
If the views of Africa are anything to go by, the continent has many high points. Travellers can book beach holidays, hiking holidays, city escapes or even a safari tour. There are a number of activities – including culture and history outings – that tourists can get stuck into.
Moving away from marketing the continent as the place where you go to catch a glimpse of an elephant only limits travel income opportunities, but talking about the wine trails and other luxury experiences the continent has to offer, stands to attract those travellers who are not interested in game drives or volunteering.
Domestic travel has a role to play
Every little bit helps when it comes to the tourism economy. KwaZulu-Natal, a destination that is very popular with international visitors, has said that domestic visitors make up a lot of their visitor numbers. The cities and beaches are beautiful, so of course, locals and South Africans, in general, would want to enjoy them too.
Cultural tourism doesn’t have to be toxic
It has almost become an internet joke that white women from rich western countries come to “Africa” – they never say where exactly on the continent they are – to volunteer and save some African babies. This is a toxic way to depict your travels. It reinforces the belief that there are no geographic distinctions on the continent. It also says that the people of the continent all need a saviour.
African countries are rich with history making the continent a popular destination for those trying to learn something new or immerse themselves in a different cultural experience. People who want to learn about history go to Timbuktu, Egypt and even Robben Island. They don’t make a spectacle of people currently living in those areas in their tour buses and with their cameras. If you wouldn’t go to a city in the United States and take a picture of people going about with their business, why do it here?
Young Africans are travelling too
Afropolitans love to travel and in the past 10 years, there has been significant growth in the number of Afropolitans choosing to visit cities and sites in the continent instead of jet-setting off to European cities. More African countries removing visa requirements for African citizens removes the admin of planning a trip. It’s more enticing to know that you can just book a ticket, pack a bag and grab your passport.
Tourism departments across the continent need to focus more on encouraging Afropolitans to not only travel more in their own countries but also to visit other countries: A collaborative tourism campaign done across the continent.
For young professionals still making their way up the career ladder, travel is still a priority. That’s why groups such as The Travel Africa Squad exist. Members of the Squad save together for a trip they want to take, next stop? Beautiful Lesotho.
What’s your favourite kind of holiday?