International tourist arrivals in Africa increased an estimated 8% in 2017 to reach 62 million, according to comparatively limited data so far received by the UNWTO. The strong recovery of North Africa (+13%) and solid growth across many destinations in Subsaharan Africa (+5%) drove the region’s results.
In North Africa, Tunisia (+23%) continued to rebound strongly in 2017, boasting the strongest increase in the region, to reach 7 million arrivals. Morocco (+9%) also enjoyed more robust growth, after a modest increase in 2016. Growing demand from European source markets and a more stable environment contributed to the positive results in the sub-region. Results for Africa should be read with caution, as they are based on currently limited data.
Growth in Subsaharan Africa (+5%) was led by island destinations Seychelles and Reunion (both +15%) as well as Cabo Verde (+11%). Kenya reported 10% growth in arrivals through September compared to the same period in 2016. Swaziland and Mauritius both posted 5% growth, while the sub-region’s top destination South Africa reported a 2% increase in international tourists. Zimbabwe recorded 6% more international arrivals in the first quarter. Madagascar reported 9% growth in the first nine months of 2017, but international arrivals declined in the month of September following a plague outbreak.
SUSTAINED DEMAND IN THE MIDDLE EAST WITH FEW DECLINES
The Middle East welcomed an estimated 58 million international arrivals in 2017, representing an increase of 5% following a small decline in 2016. Results were fairly mixed across the region, with a strong rebound in some destinations and sustained growth in others, partly offset by a few destinations reporting declines.
Egypt (+55%) led growth in the region, both in absolute and relative terms, recovering from the decline it suffered in previous years. Visitor numbers rebounded both from traditional markets in Western Europe and newer markets in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Promotional efforts and a return of stability and confidence contributed to this recovery. Palestine (+32%) also rebounded strongly, though from a more modest base.
Bahrain and Oman (both 13%), Lebanon and Jordan (both +11%) reported doubledigit growth, following positive growth in previous years. The United Arab Emirate of Dubai continued to grow at a sustained pace with international arrivals increasing by 7% year-to-date.
By contrast, Saudi Arabia, the largest destination in the Middle East, reported a decline of 16% in the first half of 2017. Qatar (-21%) also reported a decline in arrivals, with negative figures starting in May, following the diplomatic crisis with various countries in the region.