While some African countries – including South Africa – are exploring domestic tourism as the answer to short- to medium-term post-COVID-19 recovery, others are looking to increase travel between regions. In this second of a series of articles, Tourism Update explores the viability of intra-Africa travel as part of the tourism recovery plan.

Kenya Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, wrote in an open letter to the industry that African governments and private-sector players needed to review their approach to intra-Africa tourism and that increased travel between countries could help the continent recover more quickly post-COVID-19.

MD and Co-Founder of Natural Selection, James Ramsay, told Tourism Update that many South Africans felt they could not experience the continent’s wildlife areas as they were marketed for wealthy international travellers.

“The barrier to inter-Africa travel has always been high flight costs but perhaps in a post-COVID-19 world we will see an increase in self-drive travel,” said Ramsay. “Perhaps we are going to see a rise in ‘slower travel’, people driving for a 10-day break and maybe only going to two or three destinations, instead of 10 days hopping to three or four destinations.”

VP of Sales and Marketing at Dragonfly Africa, Yolanda Woeke, agreed, saying there was much for Africans to experience on their own continent.

“There is much potential for intra-Africa travel because there are so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences on the continent. The safari experiences in South Africa and Tanzania are very different, even though you may see the same wildlife,” said Woeke. “The continent has a wide variety of different cultures and traditions, making each travel experience unique.”

CEO of Isibindi Africa, Brett Gehren, believes there is an opportunity to promote intra-Africa travel better and help the tourism industry recover, but it won’t be without its challenges. “The market is quite small because of the disparity within African economies, and intra-Africa travel will be dependent on how badly COVID-19 impacted each country.

“It may be limited as each country has some form of safari experience which is what is usually marketed, but there might be interest in unique heritage and cultural attractions. Each country has its own history, so promoting intra-Africa travel from that perspective could work.”

MD of Akilanga DMC & Events, André Laget, takes a difference stance, and said intra-Africa travel wasn’t possible for South Africans. “The US dollar is the most widely used currency in the world because of its stability, and destinations like Kenya are sold in dollars, which would make it a very expensive trip for a South African.

“At the current rate at which the rand is performing against the dollar, it would make a trip to East Africa almost as expensive as going to Europe, which South Africans are more inclined to do,” he said.