While Africa’s domestic tourism industry is growing—by 2050, Nigeria will have the world’s third largest population, for example—it remains largely untapped and burdened by challenges.
Connectivity is an issue. Traveling around the continent can be complicated and expensive, in part because countries restrict their markets to protect their state-owned air carriers. Although 44 African countries adopted the Yamoussoukro decision to liberalize the aviation market in 1999, implementation has fallen short.
There’s also a need for more and better infrastructure beyond capital cities, which are now generally well served with hotels and other amenities, said Olivier Baric, Africa Aviation Director at Egis, a French multinational company involved in infrastructure and transport.
Tourism experts believe domestic tourists could be enticed if operators invest in the economy and mid-scale market, develop smaller, more authentic, and greener resorts, and introduce more products aimed at middle-class African families and millennials, while marketing more directly to these groups.
Finally, there is the question—and problem—of ownership. The long-term strength and sustainability of Africa’s tourism industry will in part depend on the number of Africans building businesses and supporting and encouraging others on the continent to do so.
Despite the many challenges ahead, Azalai’s Bally says he sees the crisis as an opportunity—but one that can only be grasped through hard work and with fresh thinking:
“I am not worried, but I am perfectly aware that we have to reinvent ourselves to deal with the new situation,” he added. “Those who can reinvent themselves will survive.”