7 most visited African countries by international tourists, according to latest available stats

Tourism is quite the revenue driver for many African countries. However, the sector has taken a major hit over the past two years, no thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic.

At the height of the global health scare in 2020 and even through to 2021, virtually all African countries were forced to shut down their land and sea borders as part of a global restrictions on travel aimed at curtailing the spread of virus. Unfortunately, this measure had inevitably shut down global tourism. And billions of dollars were lost in the process.

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To show just how severe the pandemic’s impact on Africa’s tourism sector was, we obtained statistics from the UN World Tourism Organisation which show that international tourism receipts (i.e., expenditures by international visitors in Africa) dropped significantly by 62.7% from $39 billion in 2019 to $14 billion in 2020.

But there is some good news. According to the UNWTO’s tourism recovery tracker, international tourist arrivals in Africa stood at 69% as of January 2022. Travel restrictions across the continent have also dropped to 9.43% from a high of 84.91% in June 2020.

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This is not to say that everything is back to normal. As a matter of fact, the number of international tourist arrivals in Africa is still very abysmal compared to pre-pandemic levels.
International tourist arrivals in selected African countries between 2019 and 2021 (Source: UNWTO)
International tourist arrivals in selected African countries between 2019 and 2021 (Source: UNWTO)

Based on available data from the UNWTO, a total of 18.5 million international tourists visited Africa in 2021 compared to 68.2 million in 2019. This is indicative of a 72.9% decline year on year.

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Based on the 2021 stats, below are the seven African countries with the highest international tourist arrivals. Now, it is important to bear in mind that the UNWTO emphasized that its ranking is subject to change, as time-lapses and more updates become available.

South Africa: A total of 2.3 million international tourists arrived in this country in 2021.
Tanzania: A total of 900, 000 international tourists arrived in this country in 2021.
Ethiopia: A total of 500,000 international tourists arrived in this country in 2021.
Reunion: A total of 300, 000 international tourists arrived in this country in 2021.
Eswatini: A total of 200, 000 international tourists arrived in this country in 2021.
Seychelles: A total of 200, 000 international tourists arrived in this country in 2021.
Mauritius: A total of 200, 000 international tourists arrived in this country in 2021.

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