AMID concerns that a Russian plane, which crashed in Sinai killing all 224 people on board, may have been downed by a bomb, in just 24 hours Russia flew an incredible 11,000 tourists out of Egypt following the suspension of all flights to the North African country.
That still left an estimated 80,000 Russian tourists in the country at that point.
These high figures reflect a key relationship. At 19.7% Russian tourists account for the largest share of arrivals to Egypt from a single country, something that was encouraged by the Egyptian government cancelling visa costs for Russian tourists. Considering that arrivals hit 9.6million in 2014, 1.9 million of the visitors were Russian…that’s the equivalent of the entire population of Gabon deciding to go on holiday!
Given that tourism makes up for 5.5% of the country’s economy Egypt has been careful to carefully maintain its ties with Russia.
They have both also benefitted from a new alliance given Egypt’s the noticeable chill from the US and EU following the coup and toppling of Muslim Brotherhood rule and, on the other hand, Russia’s increasing isolation from the West following Russia’s military incursions into the Ukraine.
The two country’s military alliance has also been growing steadily recently with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi already having made three trips to Moscow since becoming president of Egypt. Earlier this year they conducted their first joint naval exercise off the Mediterranean Egyptian port of Alexandria, known as Friendship Bridge 2015.
A quick move which can be seen on Russia’s part as a reaction to its loss of access to its Tartus naval base, its gateway into the Mediterranean sea, due to the escalation of the conflict in Syria.
This kind of close relationship between the destination country and their visitors can also be seen in the other countries that make up Africa’s top 5 tourist magnets.
Morocco and France
According to the National Tourism observatory, French tourists account for 34% of the 10 million tourists Morocco attracts annually. In fact, outside of Europe, Morocco’s tourism minister claims that the country is the favourite destination for the French.
Considering the history of Morocco being a former French protectorate, it’s no real surprise that France is also one of Morocco’s most traditional business partners.
It is the country’s second trade partner and the most important foreign investor accounting for 21% of foreign direct investment flows in 2014. There are also countless Moroccan companies run by French entrepreneurs or financed by French capital, and most of France’s leading multinational groups have a presence in Morocco.
In fact, Morocco has over 750 French firms based there, employing a workforce of over 80,000. One example is Renault which developed a major production centre in the north of the country with an investment of 1 billion Euros.
South Africa and the UK
South Africa’s largest overseas source market for tourists is the UK, in 2013 for example it reached a total of 442,523 tourist arrivals of 9.6 million international arrivals.
Though the use of the same language and similarities in culture are a big attraction, once again, this reflects a key economic relationship too as South Africa is Britain’s largest trade partner in Africa.
However, things could be set for change as their relations are cooling off - something that is also seen in their tourism dealings. In 2010 the UK implemented visa restrictions on South Africans travelling to the country due to concerns about corruption within the South African Department of Home Affairs - the South African government returned the “favour” imposing visa restrictions on British diplomats in September 2014.
Coincidentally, or not, in 2013 even though European tourist arrivals increased by 7% to South Africa, UK arrivals only went up 1%. South Africa didn’t seem too bothered about that though - the country is actively focusing marketing efforts on US, Chinese and Brazilian markets instead.
Tunisia and Libya
An interesting relationship to explore is the one between Libyan tourists who, before the Libyan crisis that followed the ouster of long-ruling dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, used to be the largest visiting group to Tunisia. In 2006, Libyans and Algerians accounted for 37% of tourists in Tunisia and of the seven million tourists that come to Tunisia every year, about one-and-a-half million were Libyan.
Libyan tourism comes in two forms - for holiday or for medical purposes. Medical tourism is a powerful driver of the country’s tourism with Tunisia drawing in 100,000 patients a year from Libya.
This is because because of the better level of care available in Tunisia and the wretched state of Libyan healthcare. Even before the 2011 revolution, many Libyans would visit private Tunisian hospitals for a regular check-up, with their government footing the bill.
In a bid to try to reinvigorate Libyan tourism, and following the loss of Western tourists after a terror attack at the town of Sousse in June this year, the Tunisian Ministry of Transport has reopened its airspace to all Libyan airlines companies to operate commercial flights from all of the Libyan airports to all of the Tunisian ones.
Algeria and France (but it’s not what you think)
Tourism is still a novelty in Algeria - mainly attributable to a combination of poor hotel accommodations, the perceived risk of terrorism, and difficult visa requirements. This makes it a surprising addition to the top five list, bolstered into this position by French passport holders.
However, these passport holders are in fact emigres coming back to visit their homeland and relatives - for example in 2009 only 29% were foreigners, while the rest were Algerian emigres, with French passports, visiting relatives. This explains why the high numbers weren’t put off by the mere 19,000 beds available to tourists in Algiers, the Capital city.