We all love good news, especially in an age dominated by soundbites and the 24-hour news cycle. We at Africa.com especially love good news coming out of Africa. Luckily, these days there are plenty of positive stories to be had. South Africa has been invited to join the BRIC countries, global economists are increasingly positive on Nigeria and other African nations, multinationals like Walmart are making big forays into the continent, and the list goes on.
Before we have a sigh and a drink, let’s take a closer look at the recent boom in the tourism industry, which is a very important sector for many countries. The highlight of last year year was no doubt the World Cup, a huge event for South Africa and the continent. South Africa Tourism reported a $5bn boost to the economy, 130,000 new jobs, and 309,000 foreign visitors. It was the most profitable World Cup ever, and the third most attended World Cup in history. Security and safety were at an all-time high, and tourism in 2010 rose 15 percent. Africa.com went to the New York Times Travel Show two weeks ago, where the president of South African Tourism North America, Sthu Zungu, mentioned that even the post-World Cup months in 2010 demonstrated healthy year-on-year growth rates.
Let’s have that celebratory drink! Hold on, though: this run-down of positive news was all about South Africa. We’d never dispute that the World Cup had a big impact on surrounding countries. If you’ve come from far away, you may as well visit the Okavango Delta in Botswana while you’re in Southern Africa. But the pace of growth is certainly not even, or necessarily even on an upward trend. There’s a fairly comprehensive list of African countries that have long faced difficulties in luring any travelers but the most adventurous. Upheaval has put the spotlight on North Africa recently, although not the kind of attention that souvenir-touting street vendors are looking for (check out the “Egypt is Safe” campaign).
Alright, let’s have that drink. The positive news deserves some celebration. But as you pour it and dream about your next sundowner on your next safari, take a moment to think outside the box. Add on Namibia to your trip to South Africa and experience expanses of land nearly untouched by people. Skip Vic Falls and Livingstone when planning a trip to Zambia and see a side of the country few travelers are lucky enough to experience. Do a gorilla trek in Rwanda after your romp around Tanzania. In other words, help spread your tourism dollars a little more widely, and you’ll probably come away a more educated and enlightened person. Bottoms up to that!