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LETTERS: How tourism can gain from Uhuru visa-free policy

Tourists at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Narok. file PHOTO | NMG
Tourists at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Narok. file PHOTO | NMG 

In his inauguration speech, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the implementation of the African Union policy on visas for all Africans travelling to Kenya.

This was a major milestone in driving the growth of intra-African travel and may also go a long way in driving trade, especially after other governments in the continent implement a similar policy.

Experts predict that adoption of visa liberalisation policies could increase Africa’s tourism by 5 to 25 per cent.

However, the positive impact of the policy on local tourism can be felt if the government and local hospitality industry players follow it up with a concerted strategic effort to attract tourists from the continent.

This may be our opportunity to crack open and grow an existing source market with almost limitless potential. Africa is the world’s second-most-populous continent with about 1.2 billion people (41 per cent urban); expected to reach 2.5 billion people by 2050 (25 per cent of the world population). Out of this, 1.1 billion people will be part of the middle-class, according to Jumia Travel Hospitality Report 2017.

The African story is destined to follow the Chinese script. When China’s economy began growing in leaps and bounds, the middle-class started bulging and given the one billion plus population, China is the fastest growing tourist source market in the world predicted to have 127 million outbound trips and a spend in excess of $110 billion in 2017.

In almost all key tourist destinations, tourism is driven largely by domestic and regional tourists who form a core source market.

People who reside in neighbouring countries are the most likely to be attracted into other neighbouring countries and transport which is usually the largest cost element is lowest for them.

Strategic marketing efforts can be focused on countries with the largest potential of outbound tourists including those already providing us tourist inflows — East Africa, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia, Egypt, Mauritius and Seychelles, among others, can be aggressively tapped to bring in tourism dollars into the country.

Through market research, alternative experiences can be curated that appeal to the African tourist desires as opposed to our current model which is biased towards the traditional European tourist.

Successful alternative models such as the shopping tourist model commonly used in the Dubai or the Guangzhou, China, business traveller target market that draws traders and business types looking for wholesale bargains. African traveller driven models can be researched and adopted.

Air travel reforms, road, rail and sea transport infrastructure development and connectivity can be enhanced to enable easier movement across the continent.

It has always been a wonder how a journey between African capital cities is much more expensive than a journey twice or thrice the distance in European, Asian or Middle Eastern capitals.

The real future of African tourism lies in awakening the giant that is intra-Africa travel currently at a low fraction of the market potential. The huge emerging middle-class in Africa is an opportunity that promises a great future for Intra-Africa travel.

Already there is a ‘second scramble for Africa’ in the tourism sector as global brands have awoken up to the fact that there is a huge potential in the industry.

Kabaki Wamwea, C.E.O., Twendebnb.com, a short-term accommodation rental platform.