Africans are increasingly driving the growing demand for tourism in their home continent, contrary to perceptions, a new UN report suggests.
International visitor numbers to Africa more than doubled from 1995-2014.
While an average of four out of 10 of them were from other African countries, the figure rose to two out of three in sub-Saharan Africa.
Analysts say liberalising air transport and further relaxing visa rules could boost tourism further.
It currently accounts for nearly 9% of the continent’s economy.
The latest figures are in a report by the UN conference on trade and development (UNCTAD), entitled Economic Development in Africa Report 2017: Tourism for Transformative and Inclusive Growth.
International visitor numbers averaged a rise of 6% a year, going from 24 million in 1995-98, to 56 million between 2011 and 2014.
The sector supports more than 21 million jobs – or 1 in 14 jobs – on the continent. International tourists arrivals and tourism revenues grew at 6% and 9% over 20 years.
Over the next decade continued growth is projected to add an extra 11 million jobs in Africa.
The report adds that to realise the potential of tourism within Africa for the continent’s economic growth, governments should take steps to “liberalise air transport, promote the free movement of persons, ensure currency convertibility and, crucially, recognise the value of African tourism and plan for it”.
The African Union last year launched an African passport to ease travel, however, this is only available to a few officials at the moment.
Although Ghana last year announced that it would drop visa requirements for other African nationals, in some countries it can be easier for citizens of Western countries to get visas, than fellow Africans.
It can also be very hard, and expensive, to fly between different African countries.
The UN report said speeding up the visa process “can have relatively fast and tangible impacts”.
“In Rwanda, the abolition of visa requirements for fellow members of the East African Community in 2011 helped increase intraregional tourists from 283,000 in 2010, to 478,000 in 2013,” the report said.