Over the years, global tourism has experienced steady and tremendous growth to become one of the world’s largest industries. According to Statista, tourism forms a multi-trillion-dollar industry worldwide with direct, indirect and induced economic contribution of over 7.6 trillion U.S. Dollars in 2016. The World Bank estimated a total of 1.2 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2016. In their Airline Industry Forecast 2013-2017, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects the total number of airline passengers worldwide to rise to 3.91 billion in 2017, a 31% increase since 2012.
Africa, despite having a wealth of historic monuments and archeological sites, accounts for only 3.8% of the global tourism revenue and just 5.8% of the world’s incoming tourists (AfDB 2015). Being a continent with exceptional wildlife (gorillas and many other primate species); magnificent landscapes, picturesque coastlines and mountains; and amazing attractions such as the Victoria Falls, Robben Island and the Pyramids; Africa’s tourism sector still has vast untapped potential that can be exploited to jump-start rapid economic growth.
Therefore, there is need for more aggressive innovation and investment by African startups in the tourism & hospitality segment in order to draw in bigger numbers of tourists from across the world. For African countries that lack a manufacturing base or those that are over-reliant on their agricultural exports, international tourism is among the best ways of increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and reducing dependency on foreign aid.
Consistent innovation and thought leadership should be emphasized even more in the service industries where tourism has a direct economic impact. These industries include hospitality services such as accommodation, resorts and hotels; transportation services such as cruise ships, airlines, and taxicabs; entertainment venues such as theatres, music venues and amusement parks; and attractions such as national parks and game reserves.
Like in many industries, the internet and technology are trending tools in the tourism & travel industry due to the growing and huge market. Internet or Tech startups in Africa startups have an opportunity to venture into different areas in the industry such as online/mobile air ticket and hotel bookings. It is also worth noting that tourists are heavily reliant on the internet when searching for information about destinations, travel tips and reviews before making their final travel decisions.
It is safe to say that tourism makes the world go round. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) noted that tourism is the source of one in every eleven jobs created, and that tourism makes up over 10% of the global GDP. Without Tourism, a very large deficit in African economies would arise.
Martin Mugaba is a Tourism, Travel & Hospitality Digital Marketing Strategist & Researcher at HIGH TOWN Safaris in Uganda, Africa