Facts and stats about tourism in Africa

20 Facts and Stats About Tourism in Africa

Tourism in Africa has been a topic of great interest and curiosity for many, as the continent possesses an array of unique experiences and natural wonders. The numbers and statistics surrounding this industry shed light on its growth, challenges, and potential.

From the number of visitors to the continent and the revenue generated annually to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts made for tourism development, there is a wealth of information to explore. Furthermore, understanding the most visited countries in Africa and the challenges faced by the industry provides valuable insight into the opportunities that lie ahead.

Delving into the history of tourism in Africa may also hold clues about its future. With all these intriguing aspects to consider, it becomes clear that a deeper exploration of the facts and stats about tourism in Africa is necessary to fully grasp its significance and potential.

Key Takeaways

  • Africa welcomed 69.9 million international tourist arrivals in 2019, and there was a 15% increase in inbound visitors in 2021 compared to the previous year.
  • Travel and tourism contributed 5.9% to Africa’s GDP in 2022, with total tourism receipts amounting to approximately 168 billion USD.
  • Egypt recorded the highest tourism revenue at 4,874 million USD in 2020, while Guinea had the lowest tourism revenue at 1 million USD in the same year.
  • The impact of COVID-19 on African tourism was severe, with international tourist arrivals falling by 98% from April to June 2020 compared to the previous year. However, international arrivals reached about 80% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023.

1. Number of Visitors to Africa

The number of visitors to Africa has shown both fluctuations and growth in recent years, reflecting the dynamic nature of the continent’s tourism industry.

In 2019, Africa welcomed 69.9 million international tourist arrivals, excluding Egypt and Libya. However, the following year, the Covid-19 pandemic significantly impacted tourism, resulting in a decline in visitor numbers.

In 2021, there was a remarkable rebound, with a 15% increase in inbound visitors compared to the previous year. This positive trend continued, with several African countries experiencing double-digit growth in the last quarter of 2023.

For example, Cameroon saw a 27% increase in international arrivals, while Rwanda, Tanzania, and Namibia recorded growth rates of 15% and 10% respectively.

These figures highlight the resilience and potential of Africa’s tourism sector.

2. Annual Tourism Revenue in Africa

After examining the number of visitors to Africa, it is now crucial to delve into the annual tourism revenue that this vibrant continent generates. In 2022, travel and tourism contributed 5.9 percent to Africa’s GDP, with total tourism receipts amounting to approximately 168 billion U.S. dollars according to Statista. This significant figure highlights the immense economic potential of the tourism industry in Africa.

The projected growth is also promising, with consumer spending on tourism, hospitality, and recreation expected to reach about $261.77 billion by 2030. This indicates the increasing interest in African destinations and the desire for unique experiences that the continent offers.

It is worth noting that the tourism revenue in Africa varies across countries. Egypt recorded the highest revenue at 4,874 million USD, while Guinea had the lowest at 1 million USD in 2020. The tourism sector in Africa has shown remarkable growth, with tourism export revenues more than tripling from $14 billion in 1995–1998 to $47 billion in 2011–2014.

However, it is essential to acknowledge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism sector, leading to fluctuations in international tourist arrivals and revenue. Despite these challenges, Africa remains a promising destination for travelers seeking adventure, cultural immersion, and breathtaking landscapes, contributing to the continent’s annual tourism revenue.

3. The Impact of COVID-19 on African Tourism

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound and lasting impact on the thriving tourism industry in Africa. International tourist arrivals in Africa fell by 98 percent from April to June 2020 compared to the previous year. The decline continued in 2020 and 2021, with a 72% and 71% drop in international tourist arrivals, respectively.

While there has been some recovery, with international arrivals reaching about 80% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023, full recovery is still on the horizon. The safari industry, which generates over $12 billion in annual revenues for countries like Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, has been hit hard. With a 75% decline in bookings, many tour operators fear they may not be able to remain operational, risking the loss of as many as 600,000 jobs in South Africa alone.

The industry also faces additional challenges such as infrastructure limitations and geopolitical instability.

4. Tourism Growth Speed in Africa

Experiencing significant growth over the years, the tourism sector in Africa has become a vital contributor to the region’s economic development and global appeal.

The number of international tourist arrivals in Africa has doubled from 24 million in 1995–1998 to 56 million in 2011–2014. During the same period, tourism export revenues have more than tripled, increasing from $14 billion to $47 billion.

This growth trend is expected to continue, with the number of international tourist arrivals forecasted to reach 134 million by 2030, at an expected growth rate of 5 percent between 2010 and 2030. Additionally, the Travel & Tourism GDP in Africa is projected to grow at an average rate of 6.8% annually between 2022-2032, more than twice the region’s overall economic growth rate.

Despite the setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry in Africa remains resilient and poised for further expansion in the coming years.

5. Most Visited Countries in Africa

Continuing the trajectory of growth and economic contribution, the focus now shifts to the most visited countries in Africa, where tourists flock to experience the diverse wonders of the continent.

According to the latest data, Morocco tops the list with 8.7 million arrivals in 2022, attracting visitors with its vibrant culture, historic cities, and breathtaking landscapes.

South Africa follows closely with 10.9 million visitors in 2023, known for its iconic wildlife safaris and stunning coastal scenery.

Tunisia, renowned for its beautiful Mediterranean beaches and ancient ruins, welcomed 6.1 million arrivals in 2022.

Other popular destinations include Zimbabwe, Algeria, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Senegal, and Egypt. These countries offer a wide range of attractions, from majestic wildlife reserves to ancient archaeological sites, ensuring an unforgettable experience for every traveler.

6. World Heritage Sights in Africa

Africa is home to a remarkable collection of World Heritage Sites, each representing a unique aspect of the continent’s cultural and natural heritage. With 147 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Africa boasts a rich tapestry of landmarks that showcase its immense cultural and natural wealth.

From the iconic Pyramids of Egypt to the breathtaking Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the awe-inspiring Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia, these sites offer a glimpse into Africa’s rich history, archaeology, architecture, and natural wonders.

However, the continent also faces challenges, with 17 of its sites currently on the global Danger List. Efforts are underway to protect and preserve these endangered sites, including strategies to restore areas impacted by civil unrest, illegal wildlife trade, and natural disasters. The involvement and participation of local communities are crucial in the management and safeguarding of these remarkable treasures.

7. Job Creation and Local Development in Africa

Tourism in Africa plays a crucial role in driving job creation and fostering local development, offering a range of positive impacts for both individuals and communities.

The tourism industry directly employs a significant number of people across various sectors, such as accommodations, transportation, food and beverage, recreation, and cultural activities. Estimates suggest that it accounts for around 2.5% of total employment in Africa.

Moreover, tourism provides opportunities for youth employment, with Uganda’s tourism firms employing a high share of youth 47.5% of their total workforce.

Additionally, tourism supports local economies by increasing demand for goods and services, particularly in rural and remote areas.

Furthermore, the growth of tourism encourages investment in infrastructure, benefiting local communities beyond tourism.

With current projections indicating that tourism could employ over 8.1 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2028, it is clear that tourism holds immense potential for job creation and local development in Africa.

8. Cultural Exchange in African Tourism

Building bridges between cultures, African tourism fosters a vibrant exchange of traditions, values, and experiences.

With its rich and diverse heritage, Africa offers a unique platform for visitors to immerse themselves in the local customs, rituals, and art forms.

From the Maasai tribe in Kenya to the Zulu kingdom in South Africa, tourists have the opportunity to witness and participate in traditional ceremonies, dance performances, and storytelling sessions.

Cultural festivals like the Timkat in Ethiopia or the Festival au Désert in Mali provide a window into the continent’s vibrant and dynamic cultural scene.

Through this exchange, tourists gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Africa’s rich cultural tapestry, while locals benefit from the economic opportunities and preservation of their traditions.

This intercultural dialogue fosters a sense of belonging and unity among people from different backgrounds, making African tourism a catalyst for cultural exchange and mutual respect.

9. African Diaspora and Tourism in Africa

The African diaspora plays a significant role in the growth and development of tourism in Africa. With millions of Africans living outside the continent, there is a strong desire to connect with their roots and experience the diverse cultures, landscapes, and history of their ancestral homeland.

This has led to a rise in diaspora tourism, where individuals of African descent travel to Africa for leisure, business, or cultural exploration. The African diaspora brings valuable cultural and economic contributions to the continent, as they often seek authentic experiences, support local businesses, and engage in community-based tourism initiatives.

Additionally, their visits help to create a stronger sense of belonging and connection to Africa, fostering a sense of pride and heritage among the diaspora community. Overall, the African diaspora plays a crucial role in promoting tourism and fostering a sense of unity and belonging within the continent.

10. Tourism and Community Development in Africa

Community development in Africa is a vital aspect of tourism. It fosters sustainable growth, empowers local communities, and enhances the overall visitor experience.
When tourism is approached with a focus on community development, it becomes a catalyst for positive change. It creates opportunities for residents to engage in tourism-related activities, such as offering homestays, providing local guides, or selling handmade crafts. This not only generates income but also promotes cultural exchange and preserves traditional practices.
Additionally, community development initiatives supported by tourism often include education and healthcare programs, infrastructure improvements, and environmental conservation efforts. By involving local communities in the tourism industry, Africa can ensure that the benefits of tourism are shared equitably and that visitors have a more authentic and meaningful experience, fostering a sense of belonging for all involved.

11. Infrastructure and Connectivity Improvement in Africa

Tourism in Africa is a key driver of community development, necessitating a focus on enhancing infrastructure and connectivity to bolster the visitor experience and support sustainable growth. African nations have recognized the significance of investing in their infrastructure, with notable progress made in recent years. According to ACI Africa, African airports experienced a 68% decrease in passengers in 2020, with a total of 73 million. However, there was a 67% rebound in 2021, bringing the number of passengers to 114 million. Cairo was the busiest airport with 11.3 million passengers, followed by Johannesburg and Addis with 6.8 million and 5.2 million passengers respectively. ACI Africa estimates that African airports processed 2,150 thousand tonnes of cargo in 2021, compared to 1773 thousand tonnes in 2020. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport had the highest performance with 363 thousand tonnes.

Moreover, the expansion of reliable internet and mobile networks has been pivotal. Africa witnessed a remarkable rise in internet penetration, increasing from 10.8% in 2010 to 39.3% in 2020, allowing tourists to access information and make informed decisions. By prioritizing infrastructure and connectivity, Africa can create a more inviting environment that encourages repeat visits and fosters a sense of belonging. This, in turn, propels economic growth and community development across the continent. According to Statista, the number of internet users in Africa increased to nearly 602 million in 2022, six times more than in 2010. The internet penetration rate across the region grew from 9.6% in 2010 to 33% in 2021.

12. Tourism and Wildlife Conservation in African Tourism

African tourism is increasingly recognizing the importance of wildlife conservation due to its rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes. The continent is home to some of the most iconic and endangered species on the planet, including approximately 415,000 elephants, 23,290 rhinos (5.2% increase from the previous year), 24,000 lions, and 1,000 gorillas according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other sources.

To ensure the long-term survival of these species, sustainable tourism practices have emerged as a priority in African tourism initiatives. Many operators now promote responsible wildlife encounters, supporting local conservation efforts. For instance, in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, the Mara Elephant Project has reduced human-elephant conflict and poaching, allowing tourists to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Integrating wildlife conservation into African tourism not only protects endangered species but also provides opportunities for local communities. In South Africa, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve employs around 200 staff members, and their anti-poaching efforts have led to a significant increase in rhino populations.

By supporting sustainable practices, African tourism not only offers authentic and eco-friendly experiences but also contributes to wildlife conservation and community development. Tourists and industry stakeholders need to continue prioritizing these efforts to preserve Africa’s unique wildlife and natural heritage for future generations.

13. Safety and Security in African Tourism

Safety and security concerns are of utmost importance in providing a positive and worry-free experience for tourists visiting Africa. With its diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and abundant wildlife, Africa is an enticing destination for travelers. However, addressing these concerns is essential to ensure a sense of belonging and peace of mind.

African countries have made significant progress in improving their security infrastructure. For instance, South Africa, one of the most popular tourist destinations, has invested heavily in tourism safety initiatives. The country has established a dedicated Tourist Safety Unit that operates 24/7 and has implemented surveillance cameras and increased police patrols in tourist areas.

Similarly, Kenya, famous for its wildlife and safaris, has made significant efforts to enhance security measures. The country has deployed well-trained tourist police units and implemented mobile phone-based emergency hotlines for tourists.

Tour operators and accommodations across Africa have also implemented stringent security protocols. For example, luxury lodges in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park have measures such as 24-hour security guards, secure entrances, and perimeter fencing to ensure guest safety.

Tourists must stay informed about the current safety situation and follow local laws and customs. Taking necessary precautions, such as avoiding isolated areas at night and using reputable transportation services, can further contribute to a safe and enjoyable visit to Africa.

Overall, Africa’s tourism industry has made significant strides in ensuring the safety and security of its visitors. By implementing robust security measures, African countries aim to provide tourists with a memorable and worry-free experience while exploring the continent’s captivating destinations.

14. Demographics of Tourism in Africa

How has the demographics of tourism in Africa evolved over the years?

The demographics of tourism in Africa have seen significant changes and growth. With a diverse range of visitors, both domestic and international, Africa offers a captivating destination for travelers. Africans themselves contribute substantially to the tourism industry, exploring different countries, experiencing diverse cultures, and enjoying the beauty of neighboring nations.

In terms of international tourism, Africa welcomes visitors from all over the world, including major sources such as European countries like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, as well as countries like China, the United States, and India. This intercontinental mix of tourists adds to the vibrant tapestry of Africa’s tourism industry.

The continent’s rich cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and unique wildlife continue to attract a growing number of visitors, making Africa an enticing destination for all.

15. Gender and Tourism in Africa

The evolving demographics of tourism in Africa have shed light on the gender dynamics within the industry, revealing both opportunities and challenges for women.

Women constitute a significant portion of the workforce in the tourism sector in Africa, with 47% of employees in the hotels and restaurants sector being women according to UNCTAD. Additionally, the tourism sector in Africa has a higher percentage of female employers (31%) than any other sector.

However, despite their numerical presence, women often find themselves occupying lower-level positions within the industry. For example, while women make up to 69% of the tourism labor force in Africa, they are more likely to be in lower-level jobs according to reports from the UNWTO.

These statistics highlight the need to address gender disparities in the African tourism industry, empowering women to take on leadership roles and advance their careers.

16. African Union and Tourism

The African Union plays a crucial role in promoting and developing the tourism industry across the continent. As an intergovernmental organization, it aims to enhance cooperation among African nations and ensure sustainable economic growth.

In the context of tourism, the African Union works towards creating a favorable environment for the industry to thrive. It supports initiatives that promote tourism as a driver of economic development, job creation, and poverty alleviation. The African Union also encourages member states to develop and implement policies that prioritize sustainable tourism practices, cultural preservation, and community engagement.

17. Key Drivers of Tourism Growth in Africa

As the African Union continues its efforts to promote sustainable tourism practices and cultural preservation, it is crucial to examine the key drivers that contribute to the growth of tourism in Africa.

One of the main drivers is the continent’s diverse natural beauty, including stunning landscapes, wildlife, and unique ecosystems.

Africa’s rich cultural heritage and historical sites also attract tourists from around the world.

Additionally, improved infrastructure, such as airports, roads, and accommodations, has made it easier for travelers to explore the continent.

The growth of the middle class in Africa and the increasing disposable income have also contributed to the rise in tourism, as more people can afford travel.

Furthermore, the development of digital platforms and online travel agencies has made it easier for tourists to plan and book their trips, further boosting tourism growth in Africa.

18. Technology Transformation in African Tourism

With the rapid advancement of technology, African tourism is undergoing a transformative journey that is reshaping the industry and enhancing the travel experience for visitors. Technology has become an integral part of the tourism sector in Africa, revolutionizing various aspects of the industry.

Mobile apps, online booking platforms, and virtual reality experiences are just a few examples of how technology is being used to provide more convenience, accessibility, and immersive experiences for travelers. These technological advancements have not only made it easier for tourists to plan and book their trips but have also opened up new opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs.

From e-commerce platforms connecting tourists with authentic African products to innovative digital marketing strategies, technology is playing a crucial role in promoting African tourism and showcasing the diverse and vibrant cultures of the continent.

19. Challenges Faced by Tourism in Africa

Despite its immense potential, the tourism industry in Africa faces several challenges that hinder its growth and development.

One of the major challenges is the lack of adequate infrastructure, including transportation systems, accommodation facilities, and communication networks. The poor state of roads, airports, and ports makes it difficult for tourists to access remote locations and limits the number of visitors.

Additionally, safety and security concerns, such as political instability and high crime rates in certain regions, deter tourists from visiting Africa.

Moreover, the lack of skilled manpower and training opportunities in the tourism sector makes it challenging to provide high-quality services to visitors.

Finally, limited marketing efforts and a negative perception of Africa in international media also pose challenges to attracting tourists to the continent.

Despite these challenges, African countries are working towards addressing these issues to unlock the full potential of tourism in the region.

20. Opportunities for Tourism Growth in Africa

Despite the challenges faced by the tourism industry in Africa, there are numerous opportunities for its growth and expansion in the continent. Africa is a diverse and culturally rich region, offering unique experiences for travelers seeking adventure, wildlife, history, and relaxation.

The continent is home to stunning landscapes, such as the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, which attracts over 350,000 visitors annually, and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, which sees over 300,000 visitors each year. Additionally, Africa’s rich cultural heritage, including ancient civilizations like Ethiopia and Egypt, provides a wealth of historical and archaeological sites for tourists to explore, such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, which receive approximately 14.7 million visitors per year.

Furthermore, According to a policy brief co-authored by the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, the middle-class population in Africa could increase to more than 40% of the total population on the continent, which is projected to reach 1.1 billion people by 2060, coupled with improved infrastructure and connectivity, presents a ripe market for domestic and regional tourism.

With strategic investment, sustainable practices, and targeted marketing, the tourism industry in Africa has the potential to flourish, contributing to economic growth, job creation, and cultural exchange.

What Efforts Were Made for the Development of Tourism in Africa?

Several initiatives and efforts have been made to promote the development of tourism in Africa, aiming to harness the continent’s vast potential and unlock its economic and cultural benefits.

One such initiative is the establishment of tourism boards and organizations at both the national and regional levels. These entities work towards creating policies, strategies, and marketing campaigns to attract tourists to Africa.

Additionally, governments have invested in improving infrastructure, including airports, roads, and hotels, to enhance accessibility and accommodation options for visitors.

Collaboration between African countries and international organizations has also played a crucial role in promoting tourism in the region. For example, the African Union has implemented the African Tourism Monitor, which provides valuable data and analysis to support decision-making and planning.

These efforts collectively strive to position Africa as a premier tourist destination, showcasing its diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique wildlife.

What Does the History of Tourism in Africa Say About Its Future?

We can see that how the history of tourism in Africa offers valuable insights into the potential and trajectory of its future as a prominent destination for travelers.

Africa has a rich and diverse cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and incredible wildlife, which have attracted tourists for decades.

In the past, tourism in Africa was primarily focused on wildlife safaris and adventure tourism.

However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards more sustainable and community-based tourism, promoting local cultures and traditions.

This shift reflects a growing awareness of the importance of preserving Africa’s natural and cultural resources while providing economic opportunities for local communities.

As Africa continues to invest in tourism infrastructure and diversify its offerings, it is poised to become a top destination for travelers seeking unique experiences and a deeper connection with nature and local cultures.


In conclusion, Africa’s tourism industry holds great potential for growth and development. Despite the challenges it faces, such as political instability and limited infrastructure, efforts are being made to overcome these obstacles and promote tourism in the continent.

The history of tourism in Africa serves as a testament to its resilience and ability to adapt to changing times. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Africa’s tourism industry has the potential to soar to new heights, attracting visitors from all around the world and contributing to the continent’s economic growth and cultural exchange.