At the recent 41st Annual World Tourism Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, Euromonitor International revealed the key trends shaping travel and tourism on the continent. New data shows arrivals to Africa grew by 6,5% in 2017 to reach 18,5 million, up from 16,3 million in 2012. Key markets, such as South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, Cameroon, Mauritius, and Tanzania, accounted for 70% of international trips to the sub-Saharan African region.

Driving growth

This growth can be attributed to increasing interaction between various travel industry players and digital integration via platforms such as social media, meta search engines and the penetration of online travel agents. Other drivers include a growing short-term rental market, luxury travel, niche tourism, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions (MICE) and an increasing focus on domestic tourism.

“Many countries are moving away from promoting Africa as only a traditional safari destination, exploring other niche categories, such as beach and medical tourism. The travel and tourism market continues to introduce products that suit different types of travellers, accounting for strong growth in major cities across sub-Saharan Africa,” says Euromonitor Research Analyst Christy Tawii.

The organisation predicts that growth in international arrivals in the region will reach 25 000 million trips by 2022. Arrivals are expected to see continued growth, driven by increased interest from overseas visitors due to more competitive rates than other destinations with a similar offering. Aggressive marketing campaigns and the introduction of better direct flight routes to and from major overseas markets is also expected to boost arrival figures, with strong growth predicted for key economies such as SA and Nigeria.

Key tourism rends

  • Domestic trips The number of domestic trips in Africa increased by 8% in 2017 to reach over 40 million. Despite the lack of a “travel culture” among Africans, who generally perceive travel to be non-essential and unaffordable and because local tourists are often considered less important than international visitors, domestic tourism is gaining traction.
  • Multi-channel approaches Digital migration is transforming the tourism landscape in terms of bookings, customer service and consumer behaviour. Hotels, airlines and car rental companies are using social media, affiliate programmes and meta search engines to engage consumers and increase traffic to their sites..
  • Short-term rentals booming: Short-term rentals are estimated to have recorded a 12% increase in online value this year.
  • A growing sharing economy The entry of peer-to-peer brands such as Uber and Airbnb is changing the competitive landscape in their respective sectors. SA is the largest market in Africa for brands such as Airbnb. This trend is expected to intensify competition as more travellers seek cheaper accommodation options.
  • Competition in the air: In the region, airlines led travel sales, which generated more than $7 billion in 2017. In an effort to remain competitive, many airlines are increasing capacity on popular routes such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, intensifying price competition.
  • Expansion and development of luxury resorts and hotels: Hotels led value sales, accounting for 45% of overall lodging value sales. West Africa has represented more than half of the total and is still the largest single region today. Southern Africa has increased in importance.
  • Luxury travel: The travel market is increasingly looking to cater to luxury travellers’ needs by offering world-class chartered airline services, private yachts, luxury spas, safari camps and lodges. Luxury shopping is another major driver attracting wealthy tourists to countries like South Africa.
  • MICE: The MICE sector is boosted by growth in business travel. More than 30 000 million business trips were taken in 2017. Conference facilities are being built in major cities such as Nairobi, Abuja, Lagos, Cape Town and Jo’burg.
  • Niche tourism: The medical tourism market ­– particularly for plastic surgery – is growing in countries like South Africa, thanks to our state-of-the-art medical facilities.

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