The signing of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is not only expected to increase the free movement of people but improve the prospects for tourism on the continent.
This means that the hitherto restrictive nature of travel on the African continent will experience new opportunities created by the opening of borders between countries.
The AfCFTA was conceptualised as a means to opening up Africa so that more people could be able to trade without the usual limitations brought about by the difficulties in travelling on the continent by Africans.
Ripple effect for tourism
According to Jumia Group Head of Travel, Estelle Verdier, the implementation of the AfCFTA will yield huge economic benefits to the continent from increased intra-regional business.
“In regards to the travel and tourism industry, a free trade area means more people will have the opportunity to travel across borders. There will be more business travel especially for MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions and events) as businesses seek to attract regional partnerships and investments,” she notes.
In a new report, Jumia Hospitality Report Africa 2019, Verdier adds that the free movement of persons will boost business travel, “even as we see a rise in bleissure, the combination of business and leisure travel”.
Medical tourism will also grow as patients receive visa-free facilitation to seek medical treatment in other African countries with advanced medical facilities, she notes.
Verdier points out that for full potential gains from travel and tourism through the trade agreement to be realised, cooperation of all industry players will required.
“For instance, all governments have to be willing to eliminate visa requirements for African nationals traveling to their countries. Ministries and other responsible partner organizations should create campaigns that will promote their local travel destinations and tourism offerings to attract more regional travelers,” she says.
Africa’s travel and tourism trends
The report notes that Africa’s travel and tourism remain the key growth drivers of the continent’s economy contributing 8.5 per cent (or US$194.2bn) of the GDP in 2018.
This was a jump from the 8.1 per cent and 7.8 per cent in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
The continent was the second-fastest growing tourism region in the world, with a growth of 5.6 per cent in 2018 after Asia Pacific. The global average growth rate in the same period was 3.9 per cent.
In this period, Africa registered a 7 per cent increase to 67 million international tourist arrivals compared to 63 million in 2017 and 58 million in 2016.
Africa received only 5 per cent share of international arrivals in 2017, according to the report.
The top tourism destinations were Morocco and South Africa receiving approximately 11 and 10 million arrivals per annum respectively.
In Eastern Africa, Ethiopia’s relaxed visa policies and improved connectivity saw the country become the fastest growing in the travel sector hitting 48.6 per cent in 2018 to be worth US$7.4bn.
The travel and tourism sector directly and indirectly employed an estimated 24.3 million people in 2018, accounting for approximately 6.7 per cent of total employment.