The journey is the reward as the Chinese say. Some others have said, and this writer agrees, that the journey can be a destination in itself. This is usually the case when Emirates, Etihad, or another Asian or Occidental airline is responsible for ferrying you to a particular destination among the far flung routes they fly to. These air transport service providers have mastered the particular style of hospitality that makes the passenger feel like extending the journey at the end of it. The destinations in themselves become an appendage to the journey as the feeling of being pampered and in luxury is a continuum. Truly great reasons to be a tourist when both the journey and destinations are experiences to look forward to.
And so we take a look at Africa. Yes, Africa. Among the travel cognoscenti, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia contain some of the best known tourist attractions in Africa. The only problem is that the cognoscenti are made up of mostly Americans and Europeans. And this is reflected in the air transport routing marketed by airlines. Mauritius, the Seychelles, Tenerife, the Canary Islands are also very well known African destinations, except not to African tourists.
Actually, we need to ask if there are African tourists. And no, going to Dubai doesn’t count as tourism since most African tourists hardly see beyond the walls of the hotels, shopping malls and spas. Tourism, much like charity, needs to start from home.
And home here in Nigeria begs another question of what the tourist destinations are. Some businesses have recognised the need to raise the profile of our tourist destinations especially since the exchange rate of the Naira to the dollar and pound sterling started speaking in foreign languages. These businesses have catalogued great destinations within Nigeria and started organising tours to visit them. Outdoorstour.com is one of these businesses. No, this is not a paid advertisement but an acknowledgement of potential. The proprietor of the business, Inyang Effiong is well prepared for this type of venture having ridden his motorbike from Lagos to Belgium and also ridden from Port Harcourt to Lagos on a bicycle. I guess you can say he is a classic adventurer. He is now bringing that passion into a full service tourism venture.
There was a recent photoshoot that went viral on social media that serves as an indirect advert for Yankari National Park. The photoshoot was allegedly done underwater at one on the warm water springs in the park. The images are quite stunning and certainly make one want to visit the park. This is one of the right ways to promote the tourism potential of destinations looking to increase human traffic and of course create positive economic impact. Yankari National Park in Bauchi State is claimed as one of the most popular destinations for Nigerian tourists.
We must also mention the Lekki Conservation Centre with the longest canopy walk in Africa; the Badagry Slave Route; Ibeno Beach in Akwa Ibom state which stretches for about 2 kilometres and has been stable over the years without tidal erosion; the Obudu Cattle Ranch; Erin Ijesa Waterfalls; Ikogosi Warm Springs; and many more.
Going to Kenya, a name that is known to the local cognoscenti is Lamu Island. A preserved Lamu Island is a part of the Lamu Archipelago of Kenya. Lamu Old Town, the principal inhabited part of the island, is one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. This is apart from a truly stunning number of attractions including mountains, safaris, lakes, forests, wildlife, beaches, parks and game reserves, and the Great Rift Valley.
Tanzania is known for the Zanzibar archipelago which in turn is known for the spice route, Stone Town – a world heritage centre, and coastal tours with diving and snorkelling. Tanzania is also known for one of the best safari experiences in the world.
South Africa is, well, South Africa and includes so many cities and places to see and spend time. The food is truly exceptional due to the availability of excellent produce along with great wines. Two of the lesser known places to visit include Knysna and God’s Window. Knysna is located along South Africa’s famed Garden Route in the Western Cape province. The town is famous for its oyster festival, warm people and the most magnificent views from Leisure Isle to the Knysna Heads. A visit to Knysna is described as a sublime blend of adventure and relaxation. God’s Window is one of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve’s most spectacular viewpoints, with astonishing views over South Africa’s Lowveld (so-named because it is much lower than the high escarpment along which the Panorama Route runs). At God’s Window, majestic cliffs plunge down 700m and, on a clear day, you’ll be able to see over the famous Kruger National Park towards the Lebombo Mountains on South Africa’s border with Mozambique.
There’s also Ghana, Ivory Coast, the Gambia, and many other African countries with great attractions. So to answer the question, there are certainly African tourists. If you have expressed the wish for growth in Africa, this is one of the answers to that wish – African tourism. Buying African to grow Africa. Apart from the fact that many of the destinations are nowhere as expensive to visit as American, European, Middle East and Asian destinations, there are quite a lot of places to see and enjoy.
What makes a place interesting to visit? What drives tourist traffic? People tend to visit places where they will be able to build good memories of great experiences. These places include and could be a combination of the following: Historical significance which might even be granted a form of heritage status if deemed important enough (1052 such destinations on the UNESCO website); An escape or getaway type of experience (Paris for the weekend?); Entertainment that is usually not accessible in the traveller’s home locale (classical music in Vienna); Luxuries that the traveller wants to experience or access for a short time (Cape Winelands in South Africa or Bali resorts); Adventures that are localised to specific places one has to travel to (Maasai Mara in Kenya along with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, form Africa’s most diverse eco-system.); Sports that include luxury interfaces (Formula 1).
Truly, African tourism is something Africans need to enjoy a lot more rather than spending our money propping up Middle Eastern, European and American destinations along with their economies. The missing link is the air transport system across Africa and the quality of the airports. If indeed, Africans want more African tourists, the entire value chain must be overhauled at virtually every destination across Africa to facilitate not just ease of travel, but to make travel across Africa for Africans something to look forward to.
Written by Babatunde Olaoluwa Jeje for This Day Style