Wildlife-based tourism is growing rapidly worldwide as the number of tourists continues to grow and as travellers seek out new and more enriching personal experiences with local cultures and wildlife. Wildlife tourism is a powerful tool, countries can leverage to grow and diversify their economies while protecting their biodiversity and meeting several Sustainable Development Goals.
While nature-based tourism, which includes wildlife experience, has been expanding rapidly in the last decade or so due to increased demand and opportunities, wildlife and biodiversity are increasingly threatened by habitat loss, poaching, global warming and climate change challenges, plastic waste in our oceans, and a lack of funding for protection.
Egypt best known as the Cradle of Civilization, has been the ranked top in Africa for having the most tourist’s numbers. Tourism in Egypt hit an all-time high in 2010 at 14.7 million visitors (for perspective, Paris had 8.2 million tourists in the same year.) The tourism industry, however, took another hit in 2015, when a chartered Russian plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula in a purported terrorist attack, the following year, tourism fell to its lowest number in years: 4.8 million. But now, years later, the political situation stabilised, and visitors are already returning to Egypt. There were 8.3 million tourists in 2017, and the 2018 numbers were approximately higher.
South Africa on the other hand continues to be an attractive tourist destination for travellers from across the world, with figures showing quite a significant increase. Statistics South Africa released official tourism figures showing that South Africa welcomed a total of 8,589,778 tourists between January and October 2018 compared to the 8,444,652 tourists that visited South Africa during the same period the previous year.
Meanwhile, the efforts to market Kenya both as a tourism and investment destination seem to be finally bearing fruits. For instance, Kenya's 2018 tourist arrivals grew by 37.33 per cent from the previous year to cross the two-million mark for the first time, posting a significant growth in earnings to Sh157 billion, as the tourism industry is Kenya’s third biggest source of foreign currency. The earnings are a 31.2 per cent improvement from the Sh119 billion earned in 2017, according to Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. The latest statistics show there were 2,025,206 tourists arriving compared with 1,474,671 international arrivals in the previous year.
This is a significant growth as it is attractive to the market and showing result.
However, after being ranked by Brand Finance as the fourth best performing brand in the world, and third in Africa in its latest report of the most valuable nation brands, we should aim for a higher tourist arrival this year and at least hit a minimum of four million. Moreover, the report said the country was among the 100 most valuable brands at position 72, with an A+ rating after a GDP raking of Sh5.2 trillion in 2018 compared to Sh3.8 trillion in 2017. However, despite terrorism challenges the tourism industry shows growth and Kenya remains solid and a favourite tourist and visitor destination.
Concerning wildlife in Africa, a scientist has sounded the alarm over declining wildlife populations in Kenya. The Thomson’s gazelle, warthog and oryx among others are under severe threat, and they have declined by more than 70 per cent. Numbers of Grevy’s zebra and waterbuck have fallen lower than 2,000, putting them among species whose future viability is under extreme risk. Not to mention there are only about 2,000 lions left compared to 2,280 in 2004, according to Kenya Wildlife Service.
Kenya, however, boosted its war on ivory trade by signing a petition calling on the European Union (EU) to ban ivory trade and close markets. The petition was part of a campaign aimed at asking European countries to close their ivory markets. China has long been one of the world's biggest markets for ivory, but as of 2018 all trade in ivory and ivory products in the country was illegal. The move is being hailed as a major development in efforts to protect the world's elephant population. Wildlife campaigners believe 30,000 African elephants are killed by poachers every year.
The EU however remains the world's major exporter of legal ivory and presides over a booming trade. It exported 1,258 tusks in 2014 and 2015 alone, more than the previous eight years combined. While much of the demand for ivory comes from Asia, Europe also has a large market. The United Kingdom introduced a new ban on ivory sales in 2018 being one of the strictest in the world, thus allowing for only narrow exceptions. The new rules against ivory trade are expected to come into force by late 2019. On the other hand, Hong Kong ban is yet to come into effect in December 31, 2021. “All Nations therefore should come together to ban Ivory trade and assist in stopping poaching.”
Tourism has made quite a significant economic impact in Africa. The continent recorded $43.6 billion in revenue. The total contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was $177.6bn (8.1 per cent of GDP) in 2017, and is forecast to rise by 4 per cent in 2019, and to rise by 4.2 per cent pa to $278.2bn (8.1 per cent of GDP) in 2028. According to the UK's World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the international tourism sector now accounts for 8.1 per cent of Africa's total GDP. Africa therefore, needs to heavily invest in technologies/marketing that can attract international tourists if it is to compete favourably on the global market. This influx of tourists means more money coming into the continent. And will greatly create employment and revenue needed by the African Nations.
Mr Diaz is a Brand Africa and EABC Director.