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Africa most improved region for travel and tourism development, says WEF

Africa has shown the most improvement in the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Development Index (TTDI) performance since 2019, with 16 out of 19 regional economies improving their scores.  

The index is a biennial report published in collaboration with the University of Surrey, which analyses the travel and tourism (T&T) sectors of 119 countries around a range of factors and policies including five main pillars: enabling environment, T&T policy and enabling conditions, infrastructure & services,  T&T resources, and T&T sustainability. 

It found that less mature, low to middle-income economies exhibited the most significant enhancement in performance between 2019 and 2024, accounting for 52 out of 71 economies that improved their TTDI scores. Sub-Saharan Africa improved by 2.1%, while North Africa’s overall score increased by 1.1%. Still, the report found that high-income economies generally continue to have more favourable conditions for travel and tourism development. Africa still has the lowest TTDI score of any region, with an average score of 3.33 compared to 4.26 in Europe and Eurasia and 4.11 in Asia-Pacific. 

While Africa’s industry remains small by global standards – accounting for just 1.8% of international tourist arrivals compared to 64.9% for Europe –  sub-Saharan Africa had the highest score for T&T Socioeconomic Impact, with the industry in Africa generating, on average, over 21% more jobs for each direct position than the TTDI mean, and with an average of over 43% of the sector workforce employed in segments that are considered relatively high wage.

South Africa stands out as the highest-ranked country in the region, Mauritius and Ghana lead in Eastern and Western Africa, respectively, with Mauritius being the region’s most T&T-dependent economy in 2022. Côte d’Ivoire has shown the greatest improvement in TTDI score (+6.4%), indicating positive trends in West Africa.

Room for improvement

The report identifies several factors that could contribute further to Africa’s potential for T&T development, including price competitiveness and abundant natural resources for tourism.

“Regional policymakers and T&T stakeholders need to continue the recent progress in creating more supportive business environments, improving health and hygiene conditions, fostering higher-quality human resources and labour markets and advancing ICT infrastructure. For instance, investment and policy directed at supporting inclusive working conditions, workers’ rights and education can help make the region’s large and growing labour force more competitive and resilient. Addressing widespread health, safety and security challenges will also help to encourage investment and make African destinations more attractive to foreign visitors,” the report says. 

Africa has made progress in terms of unilateral and multilateral agreements that encourage mobility, the authors say. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Free Movement of Persons Protocol, and the Single African Air Transport Market are key policies encouraging cross-border travel and trade, according to the report. 

“On average, African countries covered by the TTDI have liberal visa requirements that can help facilitate cross-border travel,” it says. 

However, the implementation of policies aimed at greater international openness has been slow, particularly in the liberalisation of air service agreements. This sluggish progress poses a challenge to the growth of Africa’s underdeveloped aviation sector. Innovative funding solutions for air, ground, and port infrastructure are needed to enhance accessibility to African destinations, the authors argue. 

The report also emphasises the importance of environmental sustainability to protect Africa’s valuable natural assets, which are crucial for tourism. 

“Encouraging environmental sustainability to protect valuable tourism-generating nature assets, developing tourist service infrastructure and greater promotion and protection of cultural resources also need to be prioritised in the years to come,” the report advises.