Tourism has steadily grown to become the largest and fastest-growing industry over the past few decades. Demand for tourism is being sustained by rising household income in emerging economies. Its steady growth has enabled it to bear the considerable potential for economic, cultural, environmental, and social sustainability. In the wake of COVID-19, there has been a significant decrease in international tourism across African countries. As a result, domestic tourism has taken the forefront in boosting the recovery of tourism businesses and the economy at large. The restart of tourism across Africa has seen governments beginning to embrace the promotion of domestic tourism. This has brought the realization that African destinations are capable of hosting vibrant local tourism. Therefore, this article outlines insights shared during the #sttachangemakers tweet chat on realities, myths, consumption patterns, sustainability, and limitations of domestic tourism across Africa.
What are the realities and myths of domestic tourism in Africa?
Africa is rich in culture, language, history, nature, and wildlife among other aspects of tourism practices. However, local tourism practices are undervalued and disregarded by the industry and the local people. This has created various myths and realities for the practice of domestic tourism. The #sttachangemakers shares these opinions regarding the realities and myths of domestic tourism;
- Domestic tourism is used as a back-up plan in the absence of international tourism
- It lacks the spending power of luxury travel because local consumers want cheap and affordable travel
- Tourism destination marketing is aimed at attracting the international market with a high disregard for the domestic markets.
- There is a lack of adequate information and implementation strategies to effectively promote domestic tourism.
- Domestic tourism creates numerous opportunities for development and economic growth.
- Tourism performance is mostly measured using international arrivals resulting in limited statistics. This gives the wrong perception of domestic tourism.
- Domestic tourism is primarily driven by micro, small, and medium enterprises at the destination because they understand the local tourist’s needs and behaviours, and that they have inadequate resources to access the international market.
- Small and Medium Enterprises in tourism do not receive adequate support from government policies.
- The benefits generated from domestic tourism cannot match those of international tourism.
- Because people reside within they tend to believe that they do not need domestic travel because they are familiar with the local attractions.
- Regular promotion campaigns with local hashtags mean a commitment to domestic tourism.
- Domestic tourism is the poor cousin and stepchild of international tourism.
- Domestic tourism can sustain the recovery of the tourism economy in Africa with products designed to attract the international market
- Many people believe that domestic travel is basic; thus, they travel abroad to meet societal status.
The presence of these myths has created a motivation for disregard of domestic tourism; thus, harboring its growth and development in Africa.
What characteristics would make a destination ideal for domestic tourism?
Every traveler has factors that influence or motivate their travel. Destination appeal is among the top motivators that make a destination an ideal choice for a traveler. Some of the shared insights by the #sttachangemakers on this are;
- An ideal destination is one that offers products and services that are relevant to the domestic market behaviors and consumption patterns.
- Most travelers seek affordability and accessibility in a destination.
- Destinations that offer inclusion and not the exclusion of the local traveler. For instance, destinations offering menus in a foreign language, use of foreign currency and offer purely foreign cuisines pose elements of exclusion.
- Destinations that offer diversity and differentiated tourism products and services because different people are seeking to have different experiences other than the common safari.
- Destination features like the authenticity of the culture, the safety of the traveler, infrastructure, and range of events/activities at the destinations appeal to travelers because they have a variety of tourism services and products.
- Destinations that tell a story from the local people’s experiences and perspectives for international campaigns appeal to domestic travelers.
- An ideal destination is one that is sensitive to local people’s values and needs.
How is domestic tourism consumed in Africa today?
Today, perceptions play a major role in influencing how domestic tourism is consumed. People have different views on ways of practicing domestic travel; this has created numerous consumption patterns of tourism. Some of the shared opinions are;
- Corporates travel for business and conference tourism makes up for the largest share of domestic travel
- Some people travel to visit family and friends
- People are driven by the social media craze of taking instagramable travel experiences. This has opened up new ways of packaging travel. This trend is common in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
- Domestic tourism consumption is at the peak during holidays and school breaks, where people enjoy quiet time with family.
- Notably, some people prefer short stays or day trips because of the perceived affordability of travel experiences.
Is the current consumption of domestic tourism in Africa sustainable?
Sustainable travel aims at fulfilling the three pillars of sustainable development; economic, environmental, and social sustainability. Sustainability can be achieved through the process of enabling job creation at domestic tourism destinations, guarding the ideals and values of the local communities, and ensuring responsible use of tourism resources. Many people shared the view that the current consumption of domestic tourism in Africa is not sustainable. Some of the shared reasons are;
- The tourism industry relies on domestic tourism to fill gaps created by the international market; a case example of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
- Domestic tourism has less demand for luxury, which can result in less wastage of resources.
- Domestic travel lacks sustainability due to its seasonal nature and local disregard for travel perceiving it to be for the rich.
- Domestic tourism is not well understood; hence, destinations lack an understanding of the traveler demands leading to the packaging of tourism products and services that lack shared value.
- Africa’s tourism industry is over-reliant on international market trends; thus, local tourism is ignored.
Most destinations practice domestic tourism because they lack alternatives; hence, it lacks the interest and passion for product and service delivery. This has forced many local travelers to opt for abroad travels where they can receive value for their money.
Are there limitations to domestic tourism growth in Africa?
#sttachangemakers highlighted the following limitations to domestic tourism development in Africa:
- There is a high cost of travel because some tourism enterprises especially hotels in prime areas are expensive to run; thus, they remain overpriced for the domestic market.
- Most tourism enterprises are foreign-owned; this creates a loophole for leakages.
- The lack of diversity in tourism destinations renders their packages unattractive to the domestic market; thus, these domestic travelers are forced to seek better experiences elsewhere.
- The perception that travel is expensive inhibits the growth of domestic tourism. Nonetheless, the high growth rate of the middle-income earners in Africa offers possibilities for more interest in domestic tourism.
- Places with constant political and economic instability discourage travel to these destinations, thereby inhibiting the growth of domestic tourism.
Domestic tourism has recently been put at the forefront of restarting tourism in this COVID-19 times across the African continent. For domestic tourism to have steady growth, destinations need to stop viewing it as a back-up plan for international tourism and make it more affordable for everyone. Notably, domestic tourism attributes to over 40% of revenue for the economy. There is a need for Africa’s tourism industry to believe in local tourism because Africa has a lot to offer. Besides, African governments need to support the industry’s growth by lowering taxes in travel and tourism and encourage regional connectivity between African countries.
Nyamweya Doreen Moraa