By L.M. Louw
11 February 2021 – Although there is the proverbial mountain to climb, WhyAfrica’s Hawks eye will be firmly on the African tourism sector. In the thaw of the big Covid-19 freeze, Africa is the perfect place for a long overdue experience after prolonged lockdowns and travel restrictions.
As a tourism destination Africa has it all – pristine beaches, wildlife, mountains and deserts, rain forests, wine, and extraordinary cultural experiences. As people start looking for alternative holiday destinations in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic in the next two years or so, Africa could be top of the menu.
However, African countries need to market their most valuable natural assets, while at the same time using the income to protect its wildlife and other unique natural resources and cultural heritage. Tourism companies and tour operators need to be innovative and creative in packaging their products. Africa is not a tourism destination, it is an experience, and should be sold as such. Africa is not about five start hotels and historical buildings – everything about Africa is different. Africa’s history, culture, world view and its philosophies are something to celebrate, and not through a European or Western lens.
Tourism is the ideal sector to do this. Let us introduce foreign visitors to the real Africa, to the African way, to its wildlife, and its herbal medicine and traditional healers, yes, and even to its sad and brutal history and strive. To its politics and to its dictators, and to the thousands and thousands of different habitats and ecosystems and its extraordinary geology.
One of the focal points of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is tourism and developing regional attractions. To function as regional tourism hubs, Africa needs to invest in decent infrastructure in terms of road, rail, and airports. Governments are in a squeeze after Covid-19 and national parks and nature reserves will need additional funds to ensure their sustainability. Private sector can help. Let’s think out of the box. There is no reason why mining companies, or agri-business, or construction and energy companies cannot invest in conservation to offset their often negative, or perceived negative, impacts on people and nature. Investing in national parks, wildlife and nature conservation is not only the right thing to do, but it will ensure returns in the long run.
A new generation of tourists and investors are on the doorstep. They will only invest in companies that care about the environment, and they will only travel to countries and with tour operators that are safe in terms of Covid-19, that invests in nature, and where the local communities benefit from the tourism sector. They will insist on sleeping over in facilities that they regard as “green” and if they like it, they will share it, and shout it out to the world via social media. If they do not like it, well, they will still share it and shout it out to the world, but this time to the detriment of your business.
In a post Covid-19 world, the tourism sector in Africa needs to shine. Tourism is a money spinner; it creates jobs and is sustainable in the long-term. Yes, there are many, many challenges ahead, but Africa as a tourist destination is totally undiscovered and unknown. How many people have fished on the banks of the Congo River in the DRC, or hiked in the rainforests of Nigeria, or sat in a mokoro in Botswana’s Okavango Delta watching elephants browsing. African countries are not only fantastic to visit, but they also present numerous investment opportunities in the tourism sector. Therefore, WhyAfrica’s Hawks Eye is firmly on the African tourism sector in the next five years. If you do provide unique tourism experiences in Africa, please contact the WhyAfrica (www.whyafrica.co.za) team so that we can make the world aware of Africa’s great tourism potential.