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Africa’s most popular tourist destinations

Tourism is an important economic activity globally. Apart from direct economic impact, the industry has direct and indirect impacts. In Africa, global tourist arrivals grew by eight per cent last year and the rise is expected to be maintained, at a pace of four to five per cent, this year. Here are the most competitive tourist destinations in Africa, according to UNWTO and World Travel & Tourism Council.

1. South Africa

South Africa has approximately 9.5 million international tourists every year. The country has several modern cities as well as national parks, beautiful coastlines, and vineyards. The majority of tourists from outside of Africa are from the UK.

Since it is one of the world’s megadiverse (exhibiting great biodiversity) countries, a popular tourist activity here is to go on a wildlife safari to see the variety of plant and animal life.

2. Kenya

Kenya earned $1.2 billion (Sh121.5 billion) last year, a 20 per cent growth from $989 million (Sh100.1 billion) the previous year despite a prolonged and tense electioneering period.

According to the WTTC “Economic Impact 2017 Kenya” report, the tourism and travel sector’s direct contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) was $2.5 billion (Sh253.1 billion), or 3.7 per cent, in 2016, and is forecast to grow to six per cent in 2017. Tourism and travel was also responsible for directly employing 399,000 Kenyans, or 3.4 per cent of the total workforce in 2016.

3. Zambia

Zambia recorded a total of 956,332 international tourist arrivals in 2016 compared to 931,782 in 2015 – a marginal increase of 2.6 per cent. However, out of the 58 million international tourists who visited Africa, Zambia received a paltry 1.6 per cent.

It is estimated that 744,543 tourists or 77.9 per cent of total international tourist arrivals were from within Africa, followed by Europe, which contributed 88,333 tourists representing 9.2 per cent. Americas contributed 48,247 accounting for five per cent of the total arrivals.

4. Tunisia

Tourism accounts for eight percent of gross domestic product in Tunisia and is a key source of foreign currency and jobs. The number of foreign tourists in Tunisia rose by 23 per cent last year compared with the previous year, indicating that a vital industry crippled two years ago by Islamist attacks is recovering.

A total of 6.731 million tourists visited the North African country in the year until December 20. The number of European tourists rose by 19.5 per cent to 1.7 million, number of French visitors rose by 45.5 per cent and the number of Germans by 40.8 per cent in the same period.

5. Nigeria

In terms of total tourist volumes, the country is ranked third in the Middle East and Africa, after Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Nigeria is expected to witness strong growth in terms of domestic trips, as total tourist volumes reached 38.8 million in 2016 and are expected to reach 55.4 million by 2021.

Domestic trips accounted for 93.7 per cent of the total tourist volumes in 2016 and increased at 12.7 per cent over 2012 and 2016. This increase is due to government initiatives to promote domestic tourism in Nigeria. Conversely, international arrivals declined at -1.5 per cent, from 0.83 million in 2012 to 0.78 million in 2016.

6. Morocco

Last year was “exceptional” for the Moroccan tourism sector with a strong growth in the number of non-resident tourist arrivals, overnight stays in classified hotels and receipts in foreign currency.

The Ministry of Tourism, Air Transport, Handicrafts and Social Economy noted that the number of arrivals of tourists at border posts was 11.35 million, up 10 per cent compared to 2016, i.e. more than one million additional tourists.

This rise concerns almost the majority of the Kingdom’s major markets, such as Germany (+15%), Holland and Italy (+9%), France and Spain (+8%), as well as United States, which increased significantly (+29%), according to the the ministry.

7. Mauritius

The number of foreigners visiting the country decreased 2.7 per cent to 121,000 in January from 124,000 in the same month a year ago. Biggest declines in arrivals were recorded from Reunion Island (down 6.3 per cent to 20,900), India (-1.5 per cent to 5,100 China (-58.6 per cent to 41,000), Italy (-13.2 per cent to 3,500) and Sweden (-9.9 per cent to 2,800).

Meanwhile, increases were mostly seen from France (up 5.8 per cent to 28,200), Germany (16.9 per cent to 10,100), the UK (2 per cent to 8,900), South Africa (10.3 per cent to 7,200) and Switzerland (12.6 per cent to 3,200).

8. Tanzania

The direct and indirect contribution of tourism was 14 per cent of Tanzania’s GDP in 2016. This is expected to rise by 6.6 per cent annually in the next 10 years, according to WTTC.

Tanzania’s tourism sector generated 12 per cent of the country’s total employment, over one million jobs, and directly employed 467,000 Tanzanians (4.3 per cent of total employment). Eighty-one per cent of the total number of tourist arrivals in Tanzania visited the country for leisure and holiday with most of the visitors coming from Africa (46 per cent) and Europe (32 per cent).

9. Namibia

The country recorded over 1.57 million foreign tourist arrivals last year, an increase of 3.6 per cent from 1.51 million arrivals in 2016. Tourism industry recorded one of the best results in over a decade last year, with accommodation facilities recording nearly 60 per cent occupancy rates across the country throughout the year. Tourists who visited Namibia mainly came from Angola, South Africa, Zambia, Germany, United Kingdom, United States and France.

10. Egypt

The country’s tourism revenues jumped 123.5 per cent year-on-year to $7.6 billion (Sh769.6 billion) last year. The number of tourists who visited during this period increased 54 per cent to 8.3 million.

Tourism is one of the country’s main foreign currency sources that suffered from several blows in recent years. It was hit hard by a Russian travel ban, in place since November 2015, after a Russian airliner was downed over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board.

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