Kenya leads other countries in ending visa requirements, as Ghana, Benin and Egypt revamp archaeological and memorial sites to attract more tourists.
By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency
Africa’s tourism is having a moment, two years after the sector was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some countries are pushing for an end to intra-Africa visas, while others are revamping memorials, putting up new archaeological sites and introducing longer visa tenures to prop up tourism numbers.
By the end of the first quarter of 2023, international arrivals across Africa had hit 88% of pre-pandemic levels, with North Africa surpassing 2019 levels by 4% in the same period, according to United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) data.
Kenya is aggressively campaigning for African integration, headlined by the removal of visa restrictions for citizens from other African countries travelling into the country for business.
Over the next five years, the country has set an ambitious target to boost its tourism numbers to 10 million – about five times its best-ever arrivals number, recorded in 2019.
New leadership at the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), a government agency mandated with marketing the destination, confirmed these targets.
“The new board is starting its assignment when the tourism sector is quickly recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that put tourism on its knees. The focus will be on the quick-wins to bolster the arrivals,” said KTB Chairperson Francis Gichaba in a statement.
Kenya’s rate of tourism recovery in terms of arrival numbers is already 72.4% of pre-pandemic figures, compared to a global recovery figure of 63%, according to Kenya’s 2022 annual tourism performance report.
Since May, Kenya has announced the removal of visa restrictions for citizens from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti and Comoros.
In February, the governments of Botswana and Namibia signed an agreement allowing citizens of the two Southern African countries to cross each other’s borders without passports.
Botswana has also initiated a discussion with Zimbabwe to scrap passport requirements between their countries. Other countries that have recently initiated talks to remove visa barriers include the DRC and Uganda.
Memorial tourism is also gaining traction across Africa as governments invest in restoring cultural and historical sites.
Ghana wants to see a million tourists every year visiting the newly-refurbished Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. As the first African nation to gain independence from colonial rule, this cultural heritage site has huge significance for all people of African descent and the area had been closed for renovations since 2015.
Among the new attractions are a presidential library and Freedom Walk.
“The burial site of Kwame Nkrumah must be appropriate to his status as the outstanding Pan-Africanist of this generation and for his exceptional contribution to the liberation of Africa from colonialism and imperialism," said Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, during the park’s re-opening.
The country now has plans to build more historical parks and museums.
In Benin, a vast memorial and tourist complex is under construction at the coastal town of Ouidah. The town was once one of the most active slave trading ports in Africa. The route where slaves were taken to ships is lined with monuments that lead to a memorial arch, The Door of No Return.
Work on the modernisation of the area began in 2020 and will entail the historical reconstruction of a slave ship, gardens of remembrance and recollection, an artisanal village and a hotel. The project is expected to position the country as a major destination for tourists from the diaspora.
In Egypt, a number of archaeological museums – including one of the oldest, the Graeco-Roman Museum – are getting a facelift and modern fixtures, as the country ramps up marketing of its "civilisation journey".
The country's newest project, the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) – expected to be the largest archaeological museum complex in the world, hosting more than 100,000 artefacts – is possible by the end of 2023, according to an independent information site.
The introduction of a multi-entry visa valid for 5 years, the extension of some tourist visas to three months and cashless payments at museums are just some of the measures being taken to drive up Egypt's arrival numbers and encourage longer stays.
Between January and June, Egypt recorded over 7 million tourist arrivals and the country projects the number to hit 15 million by year-end, against 11 million recorded in 2022.
bird story agency