- The report is coming at a time when Kenya and Rwanda have already announced plans to open borders for the continent's citizens.
- By the end of 2022, Benin, The Gambia and Seychelles had already implemented a system of visa-free access for all Africans.
A visa-free Africa will unlock travel opportunities, opening the continent's hidden tour and travel potential and adding $168 billion to the economy, according to a new report.
The report comes at a time when Kenya and Rwanda have already announced plans to open borders for the continent's citizens.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and VFS Global report adds that the initiative will create new 18 million jobs in Africa.
“Growth potential for travel and tourism in Africa is massive. It has already more than doubled since 2000, and with the right policies could unlock an additional $168 billion (Sh25.2 trillion) in the next decade,'' the report reads.
It adds that Africa needs simplified visa processes, better air connectivity within the continent, and marketing campaigns to highlight the wealth of destinations in this breath-taking continent.
According to the report titled 'Unlocking Opportunities for Travel and Tourism Growth in Africa’, this potential growth is dependent on three key policies to unlock annualised growth of 6.5 percent, reaching a contribution of more than $350 billion (Sh53 trillion).
The report includes a policy package focused on improving Africa’s growth based on air infrastructure, visa facilitation and tourism marketing.
"The sector is a powerhouse sector in Africa, with a contribution of more than $186 billion to the region's economy in 2019, welcoming 84 million international travellers,'' the report says.
The sector is also essential for employment, providing livelihoods to 25 million people, equating to 5.6 percent of all the jobs in the region.
Julia Simpson, WTTC president and CEO told the Star at the recently concluded global summit in Rwanda that the continent's travel and tourism sector has witnessed an extraordinary transformation in the past two decades.
"The continent has more than doubled in value, significantly contributing to its economy. Opened boarder and airspace will catapult Africa to even greater heights,'' Simpson said.
She underscored the continent's potential, briefly touching on Kenya's mixed travel and tourism opportunities, ranging from conferences, beaches, game parks, and history among others.
''The wind of change is sweeping the continent, with Kenya and Rwanda already following in the steps of few countries that have allowed visa-free entries for Africans.''
By the end of 2022, Benin, The Gambia and Seychelles had already implemented a system of visa-free access for all Africans. This accounts for only 27 per cent of African routes.
Last month, Kenya's President William Ruto said Africans would be allowed into the country visa-free starting end of next month in a bid to foster Africa trade that accounts for less than 30 per cent of total trade.
This is expected to bring more regional tourists to Kenya, pushing up the 2027 forecast.
The Tourism Research Institute projects tourism earnings to rise to Sh425 billion this year before increasing to Sh540 billion in 2027.
According to Zubin Karkaria, Founder and CEO, of VFS Global, visa-free entries within the continent hold great social economic potential.
''VFS Global recognises the tremendous potential of Africa and remains deeply committed to supporting the continuing development of travel and tourism to and from the continent,'' he said.
“This report not only highlights the diverse prospects for economic growth, sustainable tourism, and cross-cultural collaboration but also provides valuable insights for governments to formulate policies and offers businesses a well-defined roadmap for expansion in this thriving market.
According to the global body, 2023 is projected to be a year of near-full recovery, only 1.9 per cent shy of 2019 levels, as well as the creation of an additional nearly 1.8 million jobs.
The report highlights the opportunities for the sector, which include strategic investments improved connectivity, streamlined visa processes, reduced carbon footprint through low-carbon energy adoption, and enhanced water efficiency.
These could unlock the potential for sustainable growth, job creation, and economic development in the African Travel and Tourism sector.