Africa’s tourism outlook and top destinations before the pandemic

Africa tourism statistics from the World Tourism Organization show African countries recording the highest growth rate average compared to other continents.

2019 saw 1.3 billion people travel to an outbound destination globally. This was the highest growth in international tourism numbers since 2010. The rebound was spurred by gradual economic growth creating a strong demand for outward travel to global destinations. 

Africa tourism statistics from the World Tourism Organization show African countries recording the highest growth rate average compared to other continents. There was an 8.6% increase in tourism arrivals, slightly higher than the 7% global average. The figure represents 63 million visitors who traveled to Africa, spending $37 billion in 2017. Most tourists were drawn to Northern Africa, where European holidaymakers are heading back after terrorist attacks took a significant toll on their tourism sectors. Tunisia recorded 23% growth attracting over 7 million tourists. Morocco attracted a million more tourists in 2017 than the previous year. 

South Africa led sub-Saharan Africa with over 10 million arrivals, Zimbabwe 2.4 million, and Cote d’Ivoire at 1.5 million. Visitors to Kenya rose to 2 million in 2018, way above the 1.4 million recorded in 2017. Island destinations such as Seychelles and Cape Verde recorded double-digit tourist arrivals due to air connectivity. Here are more details on the most visited countries in Africa. 


Morrocco is the unrivaled tourist magnet of the continent. Situated on the Mediterranean within reach of continental Europe and excellent sun-swept sunny beaches, Morocco drew 12.3 million visitors in 2019. The country has a vibrant attractive culture that captivates any first-timer.

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Combined with the sights, sounds, and culture at the Medina, there is no turning back. Morocco is known for Marrakesh (the most visited city in Africa), Fes (a historic jewel), and Essaouira (a European-style beach town).


In 2019 alone, Egypt welcomed over 11.3 million visitors setting it as the second most traveled city in Africa. The main attraction of the populous nation is the highly coveted pyramids, ancient Pharaoh tombs, and the Luxor temple.

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South Africa 

South Africa offers one of the best safari experiences of the Southern hemisphere. The country is home to the big 5 and boasts of expansive wilderness. In 2019, there were 10.5 million visitors to South Africa.


Tunisia witnessed an 8.3 million visitors number. The country is well known for its ancient cities, hot desert temperatures, and the Sahara desert. Occasionally, you might hear it brandished as the “next Morocco.”


There are many reasons to visit Zimbabwe, the top pick being the Victoria Falls and adjacent safari destinations.

The rise in tourism numbers is associated with the rise in travel numbers comes at a time when the continent is investing greatly in travel and connectivity. The Africa Union had earlier launched a single air market initiative so countries can loosen their visa regulations on cross border travel.

To take advantage of the growing number of Chinese tourists most governments and companies are scrapping all visa restrictions and launching new products. To keep up with the new trends, investors are pouring more resources into quality establishments targeting vacationers and business travelers. Tourists can opt for Airbnb options or curated city guides.

Despite the positive tourism numbers witnessed pre-pandemic, the trajectory still dwarfs that of other tourist destinations markets such as Europe. Currently, Africa only accounts for 5% of the global share of travelers in 2017. The continent only reaped 3% of the economic receipts.