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Travel - Leisure | Economy - Development

Christmas tourists start choosing Africa

afrol News, 21 December - More and more Europeans choose travelling instead of family during Christmas vacations, traditionally heading towards the Mediterranean or the Canary Islands. But more "exotic" Christmas destinations are now becoming popular, enabling Africa - especially North Africa - to establish a second high season.

Due to northern summer holidays, also most of Africa experiences its high tourist season in July-August, while the shorter Christmas holidays traditionally has been a season of less travelling to so-called "exotic" destinations. The industry now however is noting a rapid change to this pattern, Christmas travels to destinations in Africa and Asia becoming modern and popular.

In particular North African destinations are experiencing the establishment of a second tourist peak season. Northern and Central Europeans are rushing to the Muslim countries Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia to get a different and more relaxed feel of Christmas, providing a new revenue base for the booming North African tourism sector.

British charter operators indicate that bookings to non-European destinations during Christmas this year have increased by more than ten percent compared to last year. North Africa is taking a great part of this growth. Also the Germans, Europe's largest tourist market, are increasingly travelling to exotic destinations during Christmas, polls indicating a seven percent growth this year compared to 2006. Egypt is among the most popular Christmas destination for Germans. In Scandinavia, charter companies have been able to sell out almost all Christmas trips to Egypt and Morocco this year, contrasting earlier years when planes were not filled up.

South of the Sahara, Kenya and South Africa are well established as the main tourist destinations, but also countries as Cape Verde, The Gambia, Senegal, Tanzania, Mozambique and the Indian Ocean islands are getting their share of wealthy Europeans, Americans and South Africans. Also here, the northern summer remains the high season, but northern winter tourism is steadily growing with a marked peak around Christmas.

West African destinations such as Cape Verde and The Gambia have started competing with the traditional Canary Islands destination and are favoured by relatively short air connections from winter-cold Europe. Here, the main tourist season is November-April, not July-August as experienced by most other destination. Both countries serve charter tourism from Europe, making a Christmas trip here as easy as well-established European destinations. Last minute decisions for an exotic Christmas are no problem.

For most northern tourists, a Christmas trip to Kenya, South Africa or the Indian Ocean islands (mainly Mauritius, Réunion and Seychelles) still demands more planning, although charter trips from Europe exist. Christmas trips to these long distance destinations also generally are more costly, preventing a high-impact seasonal peak. But popular destinations such as Cape Town - in the middle of the southern summer during Christmas - for years have been gearing up for a mild Christmas peak.

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