Which Market Matters Most?


I have no doubt that just reading the word has filled your head with images of vast sun-drenched savannahs sparkling with dust clouds, kicked up by the hooves of galloping wildebeest and zebras as they zig and zag to avoid the clutches of a lion. And who could blame you? African marketing has so entrenched this exotic Big-5 colonial image of Africa that the word alone very quickly places the entire continent in one neatly packaged box.

And while that may have enabled some places in Africa to attract international tourists, it is this image of tourism which has resulted in the industry almost collapsing under the burden of Covid19. Despite the fact that uncertainty, and faltering stops and starts, are hardly a new concept on a continent wracked by Ebola outbreaks, election violence and terrorist attacks.

Why do I say this image is to blame?

I was hired in 2019 by the African Union to map and profile tourism across the entire African continent. And what struck me from my deep dive into the wonders and possibilities of Africa was the extent to which the industry is prefaced on packaging the continent in easy cookie-cutter bite-sized chunks for the international tourist. While the African market in contrast, is largely ignored, or viewed at best as being a temporary fall back in times of crisis…

This bias-based reliance on international tourism is what has brought the industry to its knees over the past year. And while the industry sits there battered and bloody waiting for international tourism recovery, it is missing out on the opportunity to use this reset to reconsider the value of the African market. Instead, discounts are the name of the game in attracting African tourists to fill the beds normally reserved for foreigners.

This is a huge mistake.

Why you ask? Because it is actually the overlooked African tourism market which is soon going to become one of the most valuable tourism markets globally. Just ask Dubai who welcomed over 5 million tourists (a large number of them being African) in 2020, and they will attest.

Destinations like Dubai and the UK already understand the value of the African market today. This is even before we look at the fact that by 2030, Africa’s young and increasingly affluent market of over 700 million middle and upper class young Africans will be spending over $260 billion on hospitality, leisure and recreation. Or that by 2035, the number of young working age people in Africa will exceed that of the rest of the world combined.

The question facing Africa is whether this money will be spent in Africa or elsewhere. The reality, is that unless the industry changes its tune and starts to prioritise the African market is will miss out on being able to tap into a market that will not only drive recovery but also resilient and exponential growth.

Which market matters most? Without doubt the African market. And its importance and value is only going to increase year on year.

If you want to know more about the African tourism market have a read of these:

· Why The Future of Tourism is Africans

· Do We Need to Decolonise Tourism?

· To Decolonise or Re-Africanise Safari Tourism?

· Why Brand Africa for Africans

· 6 Surprising Ways Africa is Not Marketed

If this article intrigued you and you want to know more, as always reach out to me, and also check out the work we are doing in this space, and take a read of some of my other thought-provoking/disruptive articles here.