Tourism seasonality and sustainable tourism in Africa

Tourism Seasonality is a universally recognized global tourism phenomenon. Generally, it indicates fluctuations of demand and supply in the tourism industry, caused by temporary movement of people due to factors such as climate conditions, public and school holidays. Tourism as an integral part of global business is highly dependent on seasonal changes in climatic conditions, economic activities as well as human behaviors and the society in general. The majority of tourism destinations are characterized with fluctuations in tourism activities throughout the year.

Despite the fact that Seasonality is one of the most prominent features of tourism and has shown the negative effects , it is also one of the least understood. Today, many destinations have experienced higher growth in terms of seasonal trends, which may threaten sustainability. Seasonality does not refer to occasional irregularities within tourism but instead is concerned with the seasonal patterns that are stable and well established. Some causes are stable over long period, some change at discrete intervals, some vary continuously while others are unpredictable.

For instance, COVID-19 was unpredictable and occasioned seasonality to facilities that largely depended on both international and domestic tourism.As a result of COVID-19 induced seasonality, tourism had massive job losses and business closures because it was no longer sustainable to operate. This article summarizes the #sttachangemakers tweet chat on tourism seasonality and Sustainability of tourism in destination Africa seeking to define tourism Seasonality, it’s causes, whether it’s negative or positive for destination Sustainability and the innovative ways for managing Seasonality.

What is tourism seasonality?

Although, the concept of seasonality may be perceived to be familiar to many, there is no unique and precise definition of it. The following are the definitions given by the #sttachangemakers

Tourism Seasonality can be defined as the fluctuation of demand and supply in the tourism industry as a result of temporary tourism consumption due to varying consumer patterns and climatic patterns.

Tourism Seasonality is the aspect of tourism happening in a particular time at a particular touristic destination where the number of international tourists is uneven i.e. low peak and high peak seasons.

Tourism Seasonality is the fluctuation of tourist numbers/ consumption, domestic or international to a particular destination at a specified time period.

Seasonality is a temporal imbalance in tourism industry expressed through the number of visitors, expenditure etc.

N/B It is important to know that the concept of tourism seasonality is largely a temporal and spatial issue, meaning that certain regions are facing an overuse of tourist’s facilities at a certain period of the year.

What causes tourism seasonality in Africa?

Causes of tourism seasonality are located in the generating and receiving area, pushing and pulling tourist demand to be seasonal. #sttachangemakers highlighted multiple reasons which causes seasonality;

  1. Seasonality is caused by availability of time and disposal income, wars, political tension/ instability, price and ease of accessing the destination regional, travel trends, travel habits, natural calamities and wildlife behavior.
  2. Limited diversity in destination offers contribute to seasonal patterns in visitations.
  3. Some products in Africa are seasonal e.g. the wildebeest migration in the Mara. This also happens in other places like in Mecca, the Hajj Pilgrimage, which can be religious tourism that happens at a specific time. Local community festivals done at certain time of the year can cause temporal seasonality at a micro destination e.g. Lamu Cultural Festival.
  4. In most African Countries, tourism is driven by market forces. Decisions are influenced by the market forces.
  5. Seasonality can also be contributed by the workers wage payment system and leave patterns.

Overall, seasonality is also caused by consumer timing of decisions, calendar year events and changes on weather patterns.

Generally, seasonality causes can be categorized into;

1)     Natural seasonality. As the name implies, is caused by natural phenomena.

2)     Institutional seasonality. Results from religious, cultural, social, ethnic and organizational factors.

Is tourism seasonality negative or positive for destination Sustainability?

Just as the causes of seasonality are diverse and complex, so are its impacts. Seasonal pattern is an uncontrolled situation result in a number of negative and positive effects. #sttachangemakers have explored the implications for both the supply side (i.e. tourism operators, employees and the local communities) and the demand side (i.e. tourists). The tourism seasonality implications can be classified as economic, environmental and seasonal employment. The following are the opinions from the #sttachangemakers

Ø Seasonality have both positive and negative impacts on tourist destinations as it affects profitability and overall well-being of a destination, threatens the viability of investing in tourism and is often blamed for limited investment in tourism.

Ø It is negative because it implicates the economic, the environment and leads to seasonal employment. Seasonal employment affects the economy, the employees and the local community.

Ø It is negative in that tourism seasonality leads to excessive use of resources in peak seasons and allows intensive visitation in fragile environment.

Ø It has negative impacts at some point when there is no tourism product promotion which leads to low or no income to the host community. There is also a positive impact whereby a destination replenishes naturally.

Ø Positive aspect of seasonality is manifested as the chance for residents to make full use of local amenities and facilities in the high peak season /periods. Planned and deliberate spread of tourism to manage crowding, over exploration and loss of appeal can be beneficial to destinations. It changes competition from price to value.

Ø Tourism Seasonality can be positive because guarantees predictable boost for the industry, short term employment and profitability.

What are some of the innovative ways for managing seasonality?

Even though seasonality will never be totally eliminated, there are numerous ways to even out the peaks. The prerequisite for a successful strategy implementation is the matching of tourists’ market segment needs and destination products. The following are the innovative ways pointed out by the #sttachangemakers;

Ø Coming up with the policies that encourage new local entrants into the market encourage creativity. This is key to diversifying destination offers which is key to addressing seasonality.

Ø Balance between foreign investment and local investment in tourism.

Ø Change marketing language and material.

Ø Tailor making tourism products to fit in with domestic tourism lifestyle. Changing the marketing to appeal and target different generation groups. Taxes on the travel and tourism products in Africa is very high.

Ø Diversifying activities offered by the destination especially during the off-peak seasons. Destinations mostly offer no other additional activities during the off seasons.


Seasonality is concerned with patterns that are stable and well established rather than occasional irregularities. As there is an element of predictability associated with seasonal fluctuations of tourist demand, it is possible for destination managers to anticipate impacts and to implement strategies and innovations to adjust business operation to any negative effects. Findings about quantification of seasonal concentration, linking of causes of seasonality with demand and supply profile, quantification of implications, as well as linking of proposed strategies and destination profile are essential for better understanding and managing tourism seasonality.

Summary by guest writer

Evone Ouko