It’s expected that around 50 million people will spend their vacation in Africa this year. That’s a mere 4% of all international travel, but the low figures do not reflect what a huge role tourism plays in many African economies. One out of every 20 jobs in Africa is in the tourist and travel industry. A small country like Rwanda has managed to turn its 200 mountain gorillas into a $200 million a year industry. Gorilla tourism has helped improve roads, schools and infrastructure in the Virunga region where the Gorillas live, as well as successfully conserving the gorilla habitat.
The tourist industry is growing at a respectable rate of 7.2% in Africa. This number has the potential to be much higher, but developing tourism requires a whole host of factors besides building a lovely lodge or hotel. A successful tourism sector relies on good safety and security, health and hygiene, infrastructure, education and training. Obviously supporting and investing in tourism will benefit many, not just those earning a living wage from working in the sector.
What’s Your Role as a Tourist in all This?
One of the most important ways you can benefit Africa’s economy is by choosing to vacation there! And while you’re enjoying your safari or cultural tour, make sure to shop locally and eat locally. Getting your tourist dollars to trickle down is important. Supporting local businesses is just as effective as donating money to a school. And if the local community benefits from tourism, then tourism has a much better chance of being sustainable and successful.
Promote a Positive Image of Africa
When you come back from a trip to Africa, tell your friends about it and share your wonderful photos on facebook. Don’t limit yourself to gorgeous landscapes and wildlife, include your interactions with everyday people too. Africa needs positive marketing and you can really help combat the negative picture that all too often appears in the news.
Be A Responsible Tourist
Make sure your vacation in Africa is a responsible one, so that everyone can benefit from your trip. At African Portfolio, we provide our clients with practical travel guidelines that underscore the importance of low-impact travel. We stress that the countries they are visiting are not merely ‘photo opportunities’ but living cultures of both people and animals. We believe that it is through mutual interaction, that genuine caring and learning is fostered.