Destination Africa

This month's game-changing tourism innovations from across the continent!



... to this month’s roundup of tourism industry innovations in Africa

This collection of initiatives offers insights into the tourism industry in Africa. Each one is accompanied by localized analysis from our on-the-ground experts.

Whilst looking at these initiatives, it’s worth considering the following:

1. What are the fundamental human needs behind these initiatives?

2. Why are these initiatives relevant right now and in this region?

3. How would you adapt these initiatives to meet the needs of your target audiences or customers?


First, let's look at the ever-evolving factors helping to redefine what 'tourism in Africa' means today...

1. Untapped potential.

Africa is yet to reap the benefits of a truly diversified and prosperous tourism sector!

Already accounting for approximately 8% of the continent’s GDP, tourism is a big deal. But every citizen knows that ‘wildlife’ and ‘nature’ are not the be-all and end-all of what African tourism is (or should be).

Nations grappling with high unemployment rates are increasingly aware that improving diversity in the types of  tourism activities that travelers can experience will impact the sector in the most important way – through job creation.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), over 9 million jobs directly connected to tourism were created on the continent in 2017. The WTTC also estimates that, by 2028, the tourism industry will help to create an additional 18 million indirect jobs in Africa.

2. Love thy neighbor.

Intra-continental travel continues to rise.

In 2017, USD 48.7 billion was generated from outsiders visiting Africa. It’s expected that this will grow by 4% by the end of 2018 (World Travel & Tourism Council, March 2018).

Whilst the value created by these non-Africa dwelling visitors cannot be denied, local operators are also exploring opportunities that attract tourists from closer to home.

One example of this? The European-loving honeymoon destination, Seychelles, has seen a 117% annual increase in travelers from within the continent (National Bureau of Statistics Seychelles, 2018).

Initiatives such as the government reconciliation agreement – which led to the recently revived Ethiopia-Eritrea direct flights – and the announcement of Nigeria’s new national airline that aims to support intra-continental travel suggest that, even at a macro level, pan-African tourism is a high priority for many nations.


Commercial flights resume between Ethiopia and Eritrea after 20 years

In July 2018, the first commercial flight between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 20 years took place. Passengers landing in Eritrea’s capital Asmara were given roses and champagne by flight attendants on the Ethiopian Airlines flight, which was the first since the 1998-2000 border war. Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was among more than 450 passengers on board.

3. Big. Brand. FOMO.

The travel, transport, tourism and hospitality juggernauts are coming out to play!

In recent years, Africans have seen global brands pile in, all vying for a slice of the tourism pie.

‘Hilton has committed a total of USD 50 million over the next five years towards the continued expansion of its Sub-Saharan African portfolio, by converting approximately 100 hotels into Hilton branded properties’ (Hilton, October 2017)

Other major service providers – aware that tourism is growing exponentially in the continent’s biggest cities – continue to invest or expand their operations within the sector.

‘Taxify currently operates in 40 cities — 11 of which are in Africa — and is expected to use the new funding to power an expansion into more cities on the continent’ (Quartz Africa, May 2018)


All signs are pointing to a revival in the African tourism industry. Here are some examples of how innovative operators are bolstering tourism in their respective markets.


Rwandan Development Board

Rwandan tourism board sponsors London soccer team

Rwanda’s Tourism Board has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with Arsenal. Announced in May 2018, the deal sees the Rwandan Development Board featuring on the sleeves of the London soccer clubs shirts, showing ‘Visit Rwanda’. The sixth largest soccer club globally, Arsenal shirts are seen 35 million times a day across the world.

Using savvy communication channels can get people talking about tourism...

especially counter-intuitive partnerships that connect with mass audiences!

You’re more likely to associate Rwanda with mass genocide than ‘potential holiday destination’. With this in mind, the country implemented a novel strategy to promote its tourist credentials on a global scale.

Sponsoring the sixth-largest football club in the world is genius. Not only is football the most popular sport in the world, meaning the amount of eyeballs this reaches is huge, Rwanda also aligned themselves with a top-flight team, creating a positive perception of the country. Sure, countries promoting themselves within sports is nothing new, but taking up ad-space on Arsenal’s jersey sleeve shows that Rwanda has the ability to reinvent itself and improve the country’s global perception – and can do it in a novel way!


Nigeria Ministry of Transportation

Nigerian government lets students name new airline

In July 2018, the Government of Nigeria’s Ministry of Transportation unveiled the new name and logo of a new national airline, Nigeria Air. The name was chosen from the government’s Name Your Airline Nigeria campaign, which invited Nigerian youths and students to come up with a name for the new airline. The website and Facebook page engaged over 400,000 people, and the airline was unveiled at the Farnborough International Airshow 2018.

Ever considered collaborating with your populace to launch your next national airline?

Nigeria's latest initiative proves that crowdsourcing is the trend that keeps on giving!

Let’s face it – any nation’s tourism industry relies on natives to make foreigners feel welcome in their country. So getting locals involved in key branding decisions is a great way for national engagement and offers a sense of citizen ‘buy in’ to the benefits of tourism.
That’s what makes the Nigerian government’s initiative so compelling. The inception of a new air carrier is newsworthy in itself, but inviting the nation to contribute to the creation of that adds a layer of national pride and solidarity. In addition to this, leveraging social media to crowdsource the naming submissions is itself a conversation-starter – the real-time buzz quickly spreads from involved participants to the rest of the nation.


Seychelles Department of Environment

Seychelles bans plastic straws

June 2018 saw the banning of single-use plastic straws in the Seychelles. Introduced by ministers at the Department of Environment, the exclusion – which allows retailers until January 2019 to use their existing stocks – does not extend to straws attached to juice packets. The move follows the 2016 ban on importation of items such plastic bags, cups, cutlery and styrofoam packaging.

Africa is leading the way when it comes to responsible tourism...

but the race for sustainability is accelerating!

Since Morocco hosted the COP22 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) the issue of sustainability and climate change has been high on the agenda for many African nations. This, combined with the awareness that tourists are increasingly drawn to destinations that allow them to relax responsibly, is resulting in some bold sustainability policies. One example? The Seychelles acknowledging that plastics account for 30% of all of its landfill waste – and then taking action by banning plastic straws altogether!

Like other stark initiatives to clean up African countries, harsh measures such as these have a two-fold benefit: providing a long-term, positive solution to the issue being addressed, yet also catalyzing tourism growth. After all many tourists will seek a travel destination’s green credentials before booking a trip.


Ghana Tourism Ministry

Tourism ministry seeks to highlight the dehumanizing impact of slavery

In August 2018, Ghana’s Tourism Ministry unveiled plans to rename all castles as dungeons to remind visitors and citizens that the structures were originally used to hold slaves before they were shipped to new countries. Sector Minister Catherine Ablema Afeku proposed the change during an address on Emancipation Day – an annual event that commemorates the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. In her address the minister claimed that: ‘The castles we know are not castles but dungeons where our brothers were brutalized and died there and should be renamed as such. We should work collectively to free ourselves from these dehumanizing narratives that demean human dignity.’

Oh yes... African tourism is getting 'woke' too!

Nations are retelling their stories to provide more authentic tourist experiences

As a number of African countries continue to grapple with the remnants of their dark histories, calling out things for what they are is on the up. Ghana is no exception. In this case, the historical significance of certain landmarks was sanitized in order to make them more ‘tourist friendly’. Now, these landmarks are now being called out for what they are.

Previously, dealing with such uncomfortable truths would’ve been detrimental to many hospitality sectors, but in today’s hyper-politicized world, brutal honesty stemming from a national level is expected. Within the tourism sector specifically, Ghana is demonstrating that there is a way for African nations to both be honest about their past and attract new types of tourists, especially those seeking a more authentic experience of a country (and Africa too).



Festival experiences led by members of the African and Caribbean diasporas

July 2018 saw Tastemakers Africa partner with AFROPUNK to help attendees experience the festival in host cities in Africa and around the world. In the weeks running up to the festival, AFROPUNK attendees could book experiences in Johannesburg – where the African iteration of the festival, will be held in December 2018 – led by members of the local community. In other markets outside of the continent, African and Caribbean diasporas representing the travel agency, are engaged as hosts offering Afro-Caribbean excursions including textile shopping in Paris’ Senegalese and Malian markets or a dancehall experience in Brooklyn. AFROPUNK is an annual event that celebrates the creative arts scene of the African diaspora.

Bye-bye safaris, Africa is now attracting a new set of urban tourists!

The rise of the African diaspora continues to diversify the hospitality sector...

In recent years there’s been a growth in the number of tourists from the African diaspora – particularly in the numbers of African-Americans traveling to the continent. Today, between 3,000 and 5,000 African-Americans reside in Accra! Given that their interests and expectations of the continent are different to that of Africa’s traditional tourism target segment, only the savviest brands (such as Tastemakers Africa) have been able to compellingly tap into this growing trend.

Thanks to its focus on black empowerment and the ethos of celebrating all things black, AFROPUNK already has a large following from within the African diaspora. This partnership is ideal for those wishing to enjoy a curated, contemporary experience of the continent, one that doesn’t feel dated or post-colonial, but is truly celebratory of Africa and blackness.


There's clearly a demand for a new type of African tourism, as well as an appetite from African countries to bolster their reputation. So, how can you get in on the action?

If you're not working in tourism or hospitality?

Working directly with tourists boards to promote your city or country proves to be a well-fitted symbiotic relationship. Associating with ministries and institutions will provide your brand with credibility, whilst you will help to release them from the grip of dated, trite and other exhausted manifestations of ‘traditional’ tourism.


If you're a tourism industry stalwart?

Keep it grassroots! Don't you want to be a part of the narrative of how tourism is positively changing in Africa? If so, continue to monitor the profound changes occurring right now, across the continent, and play your part. Start from the bottom up and work with local entities to help maintain your organization's authenticity.