Almost 50 million tourists a year venture into the wild African land to delight their eyes with the continent’s spectacular vistas, from the wildlife of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and azure waters of Mauritius, to legendary Cape Town in the Republic of South Africa. Africa has it all: untamed nature, magnificent sights and historic towns, and some of the African countries certainly know how to derive benefits from their natural jewels and hotchpotch of cultures.
According to UNWTO, Africa earned $30.6 billion from tourism in 2008. Here’s which countries contributed to this staggering result most, which might come in handy if you desperately want to avoid crowds on your African vacations.
Right in the heart of East Africa, Tanzania is home to a number of world’s famed sites, including majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria, and Lake Tanganyika. These record-breaking attractions lure millions of visitors who are willing to splash out to climb Africa’s highest mountain or mingle with wildlife in Serengeti National Park. In 2008, 750,000 tourists left $1.35bn in the country, making Tanzania the fifth largest contributor to African tourism revenue. And the number of visitors is growing rapidly year by year.
The crystal clear waters, enchanting lagoons, sandy beaches, slender palm trees and lavish exotic resorts of Mauritius attract around one million tourists annually to this speck of paradise on Earth. However, the island has a lot more to offer than its tropical coast. It brims with quaint historic towns, thick virgin forests, and national parks loaded with hidden waterfalls and volcanic lakes. Thanks to its irresistible charm, welcoming people, and superb tourist infrastructure, Mauritius is one of the most visited destinations in Africa, with the fourth largest tourist revenues on the continent (totaling to almost $ 1.5bn in 2008).
The great potential of Tunisian tourism laid dormant for many years, but today this compact country in northern Africa knows how to make the most out of its beautiful location, intriguing culture and Mediterranean climate. Thanks to its year-round sunshine, the unparalleled beauty of the Sahara, and excellent tourist resorts catering for all tastes, Tunisia is, literally, invaded with tourists. More than seven million people spend their holidays in the country, making it the third most wanted African destination. In 2008 Tunisia earned almost $3bn from tourism, which accounts for 10% of Africa’s total revenue derived from the tourist industry.
The runner-up on the African tourist market is Morocco. Around eight million people made it its travel destination in 2008, partaking in this stimulating blend of Middle Eastern and African cultures spiced up with European influences. Nowhere else will you find such a goodly mix of splendid architecture, vibrant cites (Marrakesh, Tangier and Casablanca to name just a few), ancient ruins, superb cuisine, and stunning mountains, all embraced by the wild coast of the Atlantic and the calm shores of the Mediterranean sea. Tourism earns Morocco $7.2bn a year, reflecting 23.6% share in Africa’s total tourist revenue.
1. South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a number one destination in the region. It is visited by almost one million tourists per month and the tourism industry generates revenue of between 1% and 3% of the country’s GDP. In 2008, South Africa earned 7.6bn from tourism, which accounted for 24.9% share of the African total tourist revenue. With such an array of natural wonders and cosmopolitan cities, it comes as no surprise that South Africa is an ultra popular tourist destination. Whatever you come for, be it strolling around fertile vineyards, sampling premium quality wines, venturing into wild safaris, exploring hidden villages, trekking the majestic mountains or surfing the ocean swells, the country never fails to awe. The 2010 World Cup will certainly help South Africa keep its leading position as Africa’s biggest tourism earner as the event is estimated to have brought a record revenue of EUR 4.5bn ($5.5bn).
And you thought Africa was all about camel rides and safaris, didn’t you? Well, you never seem to stop learning. Fancy some more food for thought?