A New Drive for Tourism in Africa

In the Indian Ocean, about 20 miles off the coast off of mainland Zanzibar, sits Chumbe Island, a private nature reserve that was developed in 1991 for the conservation and sustainable management of the uninhabited slice of coral reef. Today, Chumbe features a fully protected marine sanctuary, a forest reserve inhabited by extremely rare and endangered animals, an eco-lodge and historical ruins. All reserve buildings are state-of-the-art and designed for zero environmental impact. And Chumbe’s park rangers—once local fishermen—are now trained, environmental educators who teach tourists and local communities about the importance of conservation.

The quiet island is a shining example for Africa’s new tourism. The continent— rich as it is in wildlife, unique ecosystems and diverse cultures—is only now starting to realize its potential as a vibrant destination. Currently, only 4 percent of the 1.1 billion tourists traveling the world visit Africa. Nevertheless they help to generate 20.5 million jobs and 8.1 percent of Africa’s GDP—numbers that have ignited a spark of hope among Africa’s youth, 72 percent of whom live in abject poverty.

While tourism holds great promise for Africa, there is widespread recognition that its growth needs to be managed carefully to avoid the possibility of further disenfranchising local communities, endangering ecosystems and degrading cultures. To address these problems holistically, Sustainable Travel International has convened the Destination Coalition of Africa (DCA)—an initiative aimed at uniting governments, corporations, destinations, donor organizations, civil society and travelers. “Our goal is to help African countries harness and manage tourism growth so that we can help to uplift their youth, empower women, create jobs and protect the continent’s natural and cultural heritage,” reflects Daniella Sachs, Sustainable Travel International’s Lead Advisor for Africa, who is spearheading the Destination Coalition of Africa.

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