The setting for tourism in Africa The sheer size of Africa is at once an asset and a hindrance to developing a tourism industry. On the one hand, most of the continent is sparsely populated, offering wide-open spaces, an almost unique wealth of wildlife, spectacular scenery and tribal cultures that have fascinated travellers for centuries. Yet apart from North Africa, which has taken advantage of its proximity to Europe, and South Africa, with its well-developed infrastructure, the continent’s tourism potential is largely untapped. This is due to the following factors:
Accessibility Before the advent of air travel, much of the interior of Africa was virtually inaccessible. Although air transport has shown substantial growth, air traffic control and airport infrastructure are deficient by Western standards, and many experts consider this is holding back the development of tourism. The same is true of surface transport. There are very few natural harbours along the coast, and even penetration up the largest rivers – the Congo or Zambezi for example – is blocked by rapids and waterfalls. Road and rail infrastructure is generally inadequate in most African countries, so that touring holidays can be a major undertaking. In the absence of adequate public transport, improvised alternatives, such as the ‘bush taxis’ of the Gambia and the matatus of Kenya, can be used by more adventurous independent travellers.