Cape Town - There has never been a more exciting time to be an African, as the continent collectively wakes up to the potential that exists within Africa and rises to overcome the challenges it faces.
Sure, on social media we have an onslaught of #DaysYouNeedToRemember, so much so that you could understandably glaze over one for the other - but if there is one that shouldn't be met with jaded pessimism - it is Africa Day.
Rooted in the annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), presently known as the African Union (AU), where 30 independent African countries signed a founding charter in Ethiopia; today the 54 countries of Africa, while still facing major challenges of armed conflict, climate change and poverty, are able to unify like never before.
And even more so when it comes to travel - as a number of indicators point to massive growth potential for the tourism industry in Africa. Here are a few reasons why travel to Africa is on the rise and why we as Africans should continue to be proud of where we come from and get to know it a little better.
- The United Nations World Tourism Organisation projects that international tourist arrivals in Africa are to grow by 4% in 2016 alone.
- IATA predicts that the African market will grow by 4.7% to 294-million passengers a year by 2034.
- African aviation currently supports 6.9 million jobs and generates more than $80 billion in GDP and is seen as crucial to the development of Africa’s economy.
- If one-quarter of African countries were to implement the Open Skies for Africa decision and facilitate greater air access between our countries, an additional 155 000 jobs and USD 1.3 billion in GDP could be generated, with obvious benefits for tourism.
- Take not of countries Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia - they're up and coming and happen to be seven fastest-growing African travel markets, according to Cheapflights booking data.
- Added to this, visitors from our African neighbours far outweigh those from other continents - as an example ACSA reports that Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) saw a 14.4% increase in African air arrivals in 2015 alone. StatSA reports in March 2016 the breakdown of the tourists by region is as follows: 235 640 from overseas; 653 598 from the SADC countries; 14 422 from 'other' African countries.
- But when it comes to our neighbours further afield, the United Kingdom and Germany show the most searches for travel to African destinations - holding 14% and 13% of all searches to the continent respectively - with the top five completed by European countries Denmark, Sweden and France, according to Cheapflights.
- While business on the continent is burgeoning - with South Africa easing visa access for business travellers from all African countries with a 10-year, multiple-entry visa - Holiday destinations dominate searches for travel to and within Africa.
- International flight bookings to Africa for the 2017 summer season are currently almost 6% ahead of where they were at this time last year, according to the latest data from ForwardKey.
- Egypt likely to lose its place as the third most popular destination in Africa for international travellers, while South Africa most popular African destination for international travellers - Cape Town and Johannesburg taking the top positions.
- For South African Mauritius, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, the Seychelles and Morocco are some of the top ten searched African destinations according to CheapFlights, while Victoria Falls and Harare sees Zimbabwe named twice in the top 10 most searched destinations in Africa.
Top destinations in Africa by international travellers thus far for 2016 according to Cheapflights search data:
1. Cape Town and Johannesburg (South Africa)
2. Marrakech (Morocco)
3. Cairo (Egypt)
4. Mauritius (Mauritius)
5. Casablanca (Morocco)
6. Nairobi (Kenya)
7. Tunis (Tunisia)
8. Accra (Ghana)
9. Lagos (Nigeria)
10. Mahe Island (Seychelles)
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Routes Africa: Continent needs to capitalise on predicted African market expansion
- IATA: 5 key objectives to harness power of African aviation industry
- SA to grant 10-year multiple entry visa for African business travellers