Backpackers looking for an intense experience are constantly looking for new regions to explore. While Asia is nowadays swamped by mass tourism, and Western destinations lack originality, Africa remains the ultimate well-kept secret for unconventional tourism – tourists are heading into the rain forests of Madagascar and on safari in South Africa. But hurry up because more and more folks are traveling south.
Despite the economic downturn and a general decline in tourism worldwide, tourism in Africa is growing faster than in the rest of the world. African tourism arrivals grew from 37 million in 2003 to 58 million in 2009. The continent receives more tourists than the Caribbean, Central America, and South America combined. For instance, in Nigeria-the most populous country in Africa-we welcome more than three million visitors annually, largely business men from neighboring countries and the Nigerian Diaspora visiting friends and relatives.
Given the growing demand for tourism in Africa and its positive impact on poverty alleviation, the World Bank decided to work with the Nigerian government to focus on the hospitality sector, which has great potential for generating jobs. The work, through our GEMS project, focuses on implementing a star rating system, helping Abuja to become a business hub in West Africa—for instance a visa-on-arrival scheme should be set up to ease immigration procedures—and enhancing hospitality management skills through capacity-building programs. Technology-based solutions, such as a web portal and a secure reservations and payments system, will also be important.
Africa’s tourism potential will continue to grow by attracting new tourists and by engaging tourists to stay longer. If you are curious, there is no doubt that you will like Nigeria. Get prepared to party in Lagos, dance on afrobeat music, and experience Nigerians’ great sense of humor.
So grab your passports and post a comment if you want to know where to find the best egusi soup and Suyas in Naija!