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» 12.11.2010 - Africa showed off well at London travel fair
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Travel - Leisure | Economy - Development

African destinations conquer European market

Hilton Hotel in Egypt's Red Sea resort Sharm el Sheikh

© Hilton/afrol News
afrol News, 5 October
- Not many years ago, Africa was an exotic travel destination for a few individualists. Now, both North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa are becoming mainstream destinations, increasingly integrated into the normal travel market. Also 2010 sees fast growth.

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 "normalisation" of Africa is best illustrated by those investing in the travel market's basic infrastructure. Global airlines are queuing to announce their participation in the strong growth of the African market.

Only last week, two important announcements were made.

The Star Alliance, dominated by Germany's Lufthansa, announced its decision to include Ethiopian Airlines into its exclusive club as part of its expansive Africa polices. Ethiopian Airlines joins South African Airways (SAA) and Egyptair as the third African carrier in the alliance. This will mean a new Star Alliance hub in Addis Ababa and five new countries - Chad, Congo, Djibouti, Mali and Niger - getting easier world connections.

At the same time, Air France and its Dutch partner KLM announced a great expansion into the African market. New destinations in Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Libya are to get direct flight connection to Europe, while Congolese and Tanzanian destinations get an increased frequency.

Air France already has partnered with Kenya Airways, using the Nairobi hub for smaller African destinations such as Comoros, Burundi, Zambia and Malawi. Also South Africa's Comair has teamed up with Air France, in total offering one of the most extensive Europe-Africa networks.

Earlier, in particular Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese and British air carriers had expanded their Africa-Europe connections. Even the smaller American-African flight market has already been strongly enhanced by carriers like Delta Air Lines and SAA, while Brazil's TAM and Chile's LAN are planning to follow.

In Mombasa, Kenya, large investments are channelled into a new marina

© EnglishPoint/afrol News

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

Africa is among the winners in the global tourism market in 2009-10

© UNWTO/afrol News
he 2011 growth perspective is very optimistic.

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

Colonial style houses are among the many charms of São Tomé, which some analysts foresee as an upcoming destination

© Erik Hagen/afrol News
le. Ghana is increasingly mentioned as a winter destination in the European press, and preliminary data by the government indeed indicate arrival numbers are booming.

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.

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