Is Africa the Next Big Travel Destination?

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A lot has been said recently about Ethiopia’s rise as a travel destination. The country is touting itself as the “newest travel adventure” and visitor number are sharply on the rise.

It makes you wonder if a similar trend could emerge across other parts of the continent. After all, it’s hardly interesting to hear someone say they travelled around Southeast Asia these days. So could Africa’s relatively untouched highlights make it the next big travel destination?

 

Ethiopia best destination 2015

Last year Ethiopia was chosen as the world’s best tourist destination by the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT). The East African country also welcomed a record number of visitors in 2015, proving its rise as a travel destination is no myth.

There are plenty of reasons to visit the country, too. It boasts nine UNESCO World Heritage sites – a mix of ancient culture from across the ages. These sites are a major reason behind the tourism boom taking place in Ethiopia right now.

However, there’s also the element of curiosity and the desire to experience something different. Travel fatigue quickly sets in when everyone you talk to visits the same places. Ethiopia has something different to offer; many things, in fact.

“People don’t know a lot about Ethiopia,” says Solomon Tadesse, CEO of the Ethiopian Tourism Organization says.

“It is the land on which human beings walked upright for the first time. It is the land that brought a gift to the whole world, the coffee that everybody enjoys every morning. It is the land with the source of the Blue Nile, where civilisation started.”

Meanwhile, the capital Addis Ababa has been described as the Dubai of Africa as Ethiopia’s economic climb continues. With a development boom in its most major city, surrounded by natural and cultural diversity, Ethiopia is the destination to watch.

 

Beyond Ethiopia

It’s not like the rise of Ethiopia is bringing tourists to Africa for the first time. Morocco and Egypt are consistently the top two African destinations for many years now. Security concerns are the worry for Egypt and this is a problem many countries across the continent face. Kenya is also struggling to maintain tourism levels due to security fears caused by Al-Shabaab.

Where 2015 was a record breaking year for Ethiopia, Kenya saw its tourism earnings drop 3 percent. While similar security concerns in central Africa and Nigeria spill out into surrounding nations.

However, Africa’s vast lands still produce some of the best travel experiences yet to be fully explored.

 

Tanzania

Another travel gem in East Africa, Tanzania is a colourful vision of natural life. Mt. Kilimanjaro remains one of the biggest tourism pulls here but there is plenty more on offer in this country of adventure.

 

Rwanda

Rwanda may not come to mind as a must-visit spot but the country’s rainforest puts it on the map. A trek through the dense forest for an encounter with mountain gorillas isn’t something you’ll find in many destinations. While Kigali is another capital primed to welcome visitors in a similar vein to Addis Ababa.

 

South Africa

South Africa is perhaps a more obvious choice – the third most popular African destination for tourists. Cape Town alone is certainly worth a visit but the country’s landscape and national parks throughout are a sight to behold.

 

Zimbabwe

After a decade of struggle Zimbabwe has returned as one of Africa’s lesser-known travel gems. Victoria Falls is the headline landmark and its surrounding national park shows some of Southern Africa’s best wildlife.

 

Madagascar

This island is home to the densest population of unique wildlife in the world. It also boasts tropical beaches, rustic towns and open landscapes for one of Africa’s most diverse and unique travel spots.

 

Kenya

Despite recent security concerns in the west, Kenya still offers some of the best safari experiences on the continent. Confidence in the country may be dented for now, but its power to pull in the tourists is still showing resolve.

 

It’s easy to see why Africa could be the next big global travel destination. And the tourism figures suggest it is more a case of when, not if. It’s getting more difficult for travellers to find spots that come with that unique, authentic feel – and Africa offers up one of the last remaining options. So it will be interesting to see what happens for African tourism over the next decade – especially if visitor numbers continue to rise at the current rate.

 

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About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.