Africa needs to believe in domestic tourism, an old and established practice in many destinations worldwide. As countries in Africa look ahead to restarting tourism, each can efficiently harness the demand for its domestic tourism products by understanding the market, based on types of domestic tourism activities. Domestic tourism involves activities in weekend day trips, friends and family holidays, short group package trips, and self-drive packages, among others.
Our poll, which investigated likely developments of domestic holiday markets for countries in Africa, revealed the potential of a large weekend day-trip market.
Which type of domestic tourism activities has the greatest potential for most countries in Africa?
Self-drive package 16.7%
Short group package trips -24.2%
Friends & Family Holiday -25.8%
Weekend Day Trips – 33.3%
From our observations on domestic tourism in Kenya, people take weekend day trips in places near home, with key attractions and an accessible location. Friends and family holiday mainly involve second home tourism and have a longer average length of stay in the destination. The short group package trips appeal to socially oriented holidaymakers who would want to travel to experience change of environment. Their travel plans may include overnight stays in paid accommodation, camping sites, or Airbnb. They can tour places visited frequently and engage in multiple activities at the destination. The self-drive package looks out for locations that are scenically attractive, may travel long distances, and may have overnight stays in stopover places. They are also spontaneous and may visit out of way places. The mixed interest in domestic tourism activities is an indication that countries across Africa can host vibrant local tourism. Africa’s growing population of middle class presents a potential ready market to drive demand for domestic tourism because income is an important determinant of tourism demand.
Indeed, domestic travel is rebuilding in Africa, with the push from COVID -19 crisis in tourism having countries to focus attention on domestic markets. Many places that have reopened for tourism are hosting domestic markets. In Uganda, tourism service providers are investing in travel promotions to target local and regional visitors. This could be the best way forward for other countries in Africa, as support from international tourist markets collapsed. Nairobi National park and Maasai Mara in Kenya recorded visitations from local markets immediately the country eased restrictions for local travel. Much of what we are seeing now in interest in visitations to local attraction sites could be a short-lived rebound domestic travel, so destinations need long-term strategies to grow a dependable domestic market. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), advises that for destinations heavily dependent on international markets, it is unlikely that domestic tourism could compensate for the decline of international tourism flows.
If domestic tourism is to make outstanding progress in Africa, it has to be an all-time tourism strategy, and not just an option to recover tourism from crises, or to curb the challenge of seasonal international markets. Developing domestic and regional tourism for a stronger economic structure will be essential for restarting tourism in destinations across Africa. Judy Kepher Gona, Executive Director at Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda cautions, “The challenge of domestic tourism uptake in Africa is not a lack of promotion to residents. Conventional tourism in its current form is spiteful of the domestic market in Africa, hence the perennial practice of tokenism.”