With a profound ability to touch the soul of everyone who visits, Africa is a vibrant, loud and irresistibly upbeat destination currently inspiring investment and encouraging evolution. Emily Millett reports.
Africa is naturally blessed with a vast, unique and spectacular natural landscape and native wildlife, however the continent has not always had it easy with a multitude of challenges standing in the way of its consistent evolution. However, today, as Africa continues to overcome these obstacles with grace, the continent is seeing a renewed interest in its tourism product and is feeling positive about the future.
Namibia is enjoying a popularity spurt as regional and domestic operations and marketing manager, Namibian Tourism Board, Africa and Middle East, Nicolae Tambrescu told TTG: “Business was good in 2015 and Namibia enjoys 1.5 million tourist arrivals per annum, a number that increases by 10 per cent yearly. Namibia also improved this year as a competitive destination, climbing 21 more places this year in the World Economic Forum’s Tourism Competitive Index.”
The bi-annual Travel and Tourism Report 2015 ranked Namibia as the 70th most competitive tourism economy out of 141 countries surveyed and the fourth most competitive in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa, Seychelles and Mauritius. Kenya, Cape Verde, Botswana, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia made up the rest of the top ten competitive travel and tourism economies in the area.
TRENDING MARKET SEGMENTS
Offering such a diverse range of tourism options, Africa has the potential to appeal to a wide variety of different market segments. Commenting on the increase in wedding and honeymoon guests, marketing manager, Azura Quilalea Resort, Mozambique, Salome Kgoale told TTG: “Following the trends, we have introduced new packages, including the early bird honeymoon special where honeymooners get a free Platinum Package. This year we will also be adding wedding planners to our team.”
Meanwhile, Africa has also seen growth in family travel and travel with children has seen a significant upswing in recent months, with hotels and tourism boards working to further target this market.
“We are seeing more and more families travelling to Africa and Zambia where we are based,” said sales and marketing director, Chongwe Safaris, Zambia, Mindy Roberts. “Having children’s rates and villas which can accommodate intergenerational families certainly works in our favour. We have great plans for this year including building new photographic hideouts around camp.”
Surprisingly the leisure tourism segment is not the only one seeing a growth spurt, as managing director, African Quest Safaris, Tasneem Adamji commented: “In the last five years Africa has also grown in the business segment particularly. Increased demand from corporates due to increased investment in the region means that city hotels are doing brilliantly well.”
General manager, Palacina The Residence & The Suites, Tony Sawe has also noticed this trend, telling TTG: “For Africa in general and Nairobi in particular markets are opening up and we are seeing increased visitors on business as opposed to the usual safari and beach clientele.”
And of course one of the key markets for Africa is the luxury or aspirational sector, with indulgent resorts proving a big hit with the high-net-worth travellers. The luxury inbound market to Africa is currently showing a particular interest in the global trend for experiential travel as account manager, Fundu Lagoon Zanzibar, Mark Renshaw said: “The luxury travel market is focusing a lot more on experience led travel. Lodges in Africa, especially rustic places like Fundu Lagoon must take advantage of their unique position and give the clients an unforgettable experience that makes them want to come back.”
CONSERVE, PROTECT AND PRESERVE
One of the largest and more lucrative segments of the African tourism market remains its bountiful wildlife, safari and conservation sector.
Confirming this fact to TTG, managing director, Ashnil Hotels, Rajan Bhandari said: “Kenya’s image as the ideal wildlife destination is now gaining strength and traction. We feel the demand for milestone holidays such as the Kenyan Safari is recovering and trending.”
Conservation and safari tourism is helping Africa become self-sustaining and encourages community development and heritage preservation as well as creating more economic opportunities. Catching on to this concept, investment is being made in the segment as marketing manager, AmaKhosi Safari Lodge, Esther Currie said: “Our owners are still very confident in our country and this year invested in a full refurbishment of the lodge and all the river suites.“
Indeed, this interest in conservation and wildlife tourism, is proving to be a major draw card for Middle Eastern guests to Africa as Tambrescu of the Namibian Tourism Board told TTG: “The Middle East has started to discover Namibia in the past years and come to visit because of the large variety of wild animals we have here through land or air safaris.”
PEAKING MIDDLE EASTERN INTEREST
And it seems it is not just Namibia that is seeing brighter sparks of interest from the MENA region.
Adamji of African Quest Safaris said: “The Middle East market is important. The proximity to our region and excellent air connections can lend to growing the leisure segment.”
Azura Quilalea Resort is so focused on the Middle East market that they recently hired Gulf Reps to promote them in the region as Kgoale explained: “Gulf Reps in Dubai, has been recruited to care for the Middle East market for Azura.”
As Africa hones its well-established wildlife tourism assets, and welcomes growing and emerging markets into its rich and diverse fold, the continent is seeing increased interest from unexpected markets including corporate travellers and visitors from the MENA region.