We all know that planet Earth is in peril
Global warming, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, energy inefficiency, human-animal conflict, safety, security, unemployment, poverty, hunger, viral pandemics – the list is endless.
On the environmental side, coastal regions, in particular, are undergoing rapid decline. It is estimated that approximately 3 billion people — about half of the world’s population — live within 200 kilometres of a coastline. In Africa, the average population density in coastal areas is about 80 people per square kilometre, twice the world’s average population density.
As an industry, tourism is ideally positioned to make a difference.
In 2018, tourism generated 10% of the World’s GDP and created 1/10 jobs worldwide. In 2020, the global coronavirus pandemic decimated the tourism industry as countries locked-down to fight the spread of infection. This caused a 70% drop in global tourist arrivals and resulted wide-scale unemployment.
Tourism impacts the World across many fronts, including economic growth and development, environmental protection, cultural preservation, peace, and security. However, the potential of Africa’s tourism remains largely untapped. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reported that in 2018 the African region received only a 3% share in tourism receipts and a 5% share in worldwide arrivals. These percentages certainly dropped in 2020.
And yet, the African continent is endowed with rich diversity, an abundance of natural beauty, cultural heritage and historical sites, wildlife, safaris, beaches, deserts and so much more. If channelled correctly, and with initiatives to boost domestic tourism in Africa, these assets could provide considerable opportunities for niche tourism growth and, above all, solve many of the factors that inhibit tourism growth in Africa.
So, how can Africa grow tourism?
As an African collective, we need to boost both international and domestic tourism. We need to promote responsible tourism and to gather local research data to protect our environmental biodiversity; we need to create awareness on the impact of pollution and climate change; we need to identify new tourism opportunities; we need to showcase our natural and cultural heritage assets to global audiences through storytelling; and we need to do all of this through mass participation and action.