If there was ever a silver lining to the cloud that was the pandemic, then that would be the unanticipated unlocking of the domestic and regional tourism markets.
More Africans are booking holidays within Africa, and discovering off-the-beaten paths. Now African tourism agencies are on a charm offensive to woo Kenyans to their beaches, nature trails, vineyards and cities.
Zambia's top attractions
Chavunga Lungu, the Zambia Tourism Agency’s acting CEO says that besides cultural immersion, Kenyans can visit Zambia to experience “the largest wildlife migration on the continent.”
This is the descending of over 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats into a tiny patch of evergreen swamp forest in Northern Zambia.
This is in addition to the natural spectacle of about one million white-eared kobs that migrate in mega-herds between Boma and Badingilo national parks.
Top attractions worth adding on your bucket list include marvelling at the Victoria Falls, taking a night drive in search of leopards in a national Park, and riding the raging rapid Batoka Gorge.
Uganda's top attractions
Bradford Ochieng’, the Uganda Tourism Board deputy CEO says mountain gorilla is a must-do activity for all African tourists. Uganda boasts about 500 of the remaining 900 world population of mountain gorillas.
Mr Ochieng’ says Uganda received over 1.5 million tourists in 2019 and they are betting on intra-African travel to boost arrivals.
Its top five source markets in terms of arrivals have been Rwanda (32 percent), Kenya (24 percent), Tanzania (6 percent), the US (4 percent), and India (3 percent). Besides gorilla-tracking, Kenyans can visit Queen Elizabeth National Park, sail on the magical River Nile, enjoy Kampala nightlife and tour the many national parks.
Tanzania top travel spots
Naomi Mbilinyi, senior tourism officer at Tanzania Tourism Board says Tanzania welcomed at least 1.5 million visitors in 2019 with at least 90 percent visiting for leisure.
Out of this, Kenya accounted for the lion’s share of 21 percent (254, 291) of the top 10 source markets of international visitor arrivals from Africa, constituting as much as half the visitors from Europe.
“Kenyans are drawn to Tanzania because we share a common language and access is relatively easy. The fact that Tanzanians exist as one community despite having at least 120 tribes makes it a very attractive destination. Besides our wildlife, what attracts Kenyans is the Maasai Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, chimpanzee tracking at Mahale Mountains National Park also renowned for its fantastic sunsets over Lake Tanganyika,” Ms Mbilinyi says.
Rwanda top travel spots
Rwanda seeks to grow its Kenyan arrivals from the 18,788 that visit annually. To achieve this, Rwanda Development Board has revised the pricing structure for East African Community (EAC) residents to match what their Rwandan citizens would pay.
Umar Abineza of the Tourism Promotion Division of Rwanda Development Board says tourists from the EAC will pay $200 (Sh24,000) for a gorilla trekking safari, compared to the $500 (Sh60,700) other tourists pay.
The top attractions in Rwanda include the museums, national parks and Kigali city life.
“Leveraging on being the ‘land of a thousand hills’, we are also a sporting destination with hiking, cycling, and basketball on the rise. Rwanda has also mapped out car-free zones to encourage creativity to curate outdoor activities and grow nightlife,” he says.
Zimbabwe top travel spots
Zimbabwe is also courting Kenyans with its attractions such as visits to Mosi-oa-Tunya, the world’s greatest sheet of falling water also referred to as Victoria Falls, as well as the Zimbabwe National Monument located in Lowveld.
This behemoth was built between 1100 and 1450AD and extends to over 800 hectares that make for the largest stone structure outside Egypt.
South Africa top travel spots
South Africa wants Kenyans to visit the Constitutional Hill-a living museum that tells the story of the country’s journey to democracy, Soweto township, which was the epicentre of political campaigns against the apartheid state.
The country is also a shoppers and wine lovers’ paradise. It has the most breathtaking coastal scenery, national parks, Africa’s second-largest canyon, the World-Heritage-listed Robben Island, and private reserves that host dozens of top-end lodges.
J-Bay town is also one of the top surfing spots in the world and hosts major competitions.
Cape Town and Western Cape remain a favourite destination for Kenyans because of its wide array of varied experiences, from visits up Table Mountain by cable car, tours of the vineyards, the highest bungee jump from a bridge in Bloukrans, and visits to penguins at Boulders Beach and Stony Point.
Joanne Mwangi-Yelbert, the Kenya Tourism Board chairperson says Africa has untapped potential.
“The vastness of the continent, its natural beauty, and its immense biodiversity offer travellers an almost unlimited choice of experiences. There is huge potential for African countries to come together in the promotion of travel opportunities,” she said during the Magical Kenya Travel Expo which brought tourism leaders from the region and abroad.
Ms Mwangi says the one single tourist visa will boost intra-Africa travel, urging tourism boards in the continent to seek partnerships.
“Tourism has been growing rapidly, but this growth has not been evenly distributed across all African countries. A majority of countries are still lagging in terms of infrastructure development and market access, which is why partnerships between tourism boards and governments will be key in helping to grow our industry,” she says.