Travel - Leisure | Economy - Development
African destinations conquer European market
The trend is indubitable. Any travel market analysis published nowadays includes Africa as any other tourist destination. Only a few years ago, this was not the case. Africa was too exotic for mainstream tourism.
The strengthened Africa-Europe air infrastructure of is based on a greater demand. The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for years has documented that both the North African and sub-Saharan tourism market is among the strongest growing destinations in the world.
Indeed, both markets were the only ones globally to record growth during the two troubled halves of 2009, a year when the global tourism market plunged. They also had the highest two-year growth in the pre- and post-crisis era. From the record first half of 2008 to the first half of 2010, international arrivals to North Africa grew by 12 percent and to sub-Saharan Africa even by 16 percent.
In the European market, African destinations meanwhile figure among the most popular. Also during the northern winter of 2010-11, African destinations have a high profile. While North Africa still dominates, sub-Saharan Africa is getting a broader attention.
Consolidated destinations growing fast
Egypt, with its Red Sea destinations Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh, is still the great boom country for European winter holidays. In Britain, new cheap flights to Egypt are set to make a large addition to the great charter market. In Germany and Italy, Egypt is registered as on of the season's main destinations. In Sweden, Egypt will be the third largest destination this winter, after Spain and Thailand.
Even in Eastern European countries such as Romania and Poland, Egypt is emerging as a major winter destination.
The Maghreb countries Morocco and Tunisia, which also have seen record growth in tourist arrivals during the last few years, are mainly European summer destinations. The 2010 summer season is still not analysed, but preliminary data indicate yet another record for Morocco, with around 15 percent more international arrivals. Also t
In sub-Saharan Africa, the greatest winner this year is Southern Africa, mainly as a consequence of the FIFA World Cup. In particular South Africa has seen a large increase in arrivals, which is expected to be long-lasting due to the image lift of the country during the World Cup and the investments in tourism infrastructure.
But also South Africa's neighbours see a positive impact of the Cup and of years of investments in the sector. Mozambique is rapidly rising, however mostly due to South African arrivals. Also Botswana and Namibia are consolidating their position while Zimbabwe is returning as a destination.
In the Indian Ocean, the well-established destinations Mauritius, Seychelles and Réuinon were affected by the 2009 crisis but have achieved considerable growth in 2010. Madagascar however has experienced a setback due to the political chaos on the island.
East Africa's classic destinations in Kenya and Tanzania have seen a slower growth than Africa at large, but nevertheless maintained growth during the 2009-10 northern winter season. For the 2010-11 season, the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) foresees a "tourism boom".
In West Africa, Cape Verde continues to be the great winner and managed to substantially increase international arrival throughout 2009 by lowering prices. The archipelago was helped by the start-up of discount air connections from Europe, but also charter operators in countries such as Britain and Luxembourg had to add extra flights to the popular Cape Verdean destination. The 2010-11 season is expected to break all previous records.
But also other West African destinations were emerging. Ghana seems to be the region's new shooting star, with travellers from outside Britain now discovering the country on a larger sca
Meanwhile, Senegal saw a minor decline in arrivals in 2009, but with new infrastructure, a small growth is foreseen for 2010. The Gambia even experienced a massive decline in arrivals in the 2009-10 season, probably due to negative headlines, but is expected to repair some of the damage in the upcoming season.
New "secret destinations" emerging
But also African destinations that still are poorly developed, on the frontier of the travel market, are experiencing strong growth. As the mainstream discovers consolidated African destinations, the interest for exotic places off the beaten track is booming.
This is illustrated by the established airliners' increased offer of flights to "undiscovered" but highly potential destinations such as Gabon, Burundi, Comoros and Liberia. Another indication is the unprecedented high response to afrol News series about "Africa's secret destinations" this year, producing one reader record after the other.
The trend is further confirmed by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), which sees the sub-Saharan region as one of the strongest growing travel destinations at large. Also, with the large investments in tourism infrastructure and eco-tourism by most African governments - from Mali to Malawi - new destinations are constantly being opened up.
The tourism sector indeed has conquered Africa and experts agree it will soon become one of the continent's main economic growth motors. Soon, many more African countries may be added to the mainstream tourist destination list, for example Ghana, Mozambique, Gabon, Ethiopia, São Tomé and Algeria.
By staff writers
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