10 Quick Business Ideas You Can Start In Africa’s Tourism Industry Immediately

10 Quick Business Ideas You Can Start In Africa’s Tourism Industry Immediately

Africa’s tourism potential rocks – it is growing annually at around 6% – and it makes total sense: I don’t know about you, but each time I see pictures of the breath-taking scenery of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro, the white beaches of the Seychelles, the rare forests of Madagascar, the calm royalty of the Kalahari, the grand hotels of South Africa, the buzzing markets of Morocco….. I long to travel. In fact, my biggest motivation and reward when doing business in Africa would be to one day be able to enjoy the privilege to experience all these places and more around the world. I love travelling. It fills you with a sense of freedom and excitement – you feed every sense of your body with a new experience. And the beautiful memories bring joy to you for years to come.

On that level, starting a business in Africa’s tourist industry is probably hugely rewarding. You will always be accompanied by that aspect of dream and adventure.

Many African countries bank on growing dynamics in the local tourist industry for added national income. The tourism sector may not be among the crème de la crème of African opportunities and it gets overall less attention than other key sectors, but it is growing steadily and provides wonderful prospects.

One example is that of entrepreneur Marek Zmyslowski. He left his country Poland to seize the opportunity and moved to Nigeria where he opened launched jovago.com only in 2013! He quickly received funding and his African hotel booking portal has grown in one of Africa’s entrepreneurial success stories in no time with over 200,000 hotels today.

Here are 10 quick business ideas for Africa’s tourism industry that are relatively easy to model and implement. You do not need much starting capital at all, because you can use the services, platforms, and even clientele of hotels and tourist agencies already operating. Your main job is to design creative tours and industry solutions and then simply to partner with industry actors.


1) Create a tour that stands out

african business bike tours

You may get a hard time beating the competition when you put together another safari tour or a beach holiday. Stand out to make your mark – I mean truly. One example is that of 22-year old South African entrepreneur Jeffrey Mulaudzi who decided to take tourists coming to South Africa through the poor townships on bikes. He offers 2 1/2 hour tours and 4 hour tours, which include some sight seeing of spots relevant during the apartheid uprising and some chats with the locals who live in those poor areas, the taste of local African beer, and a lunch. He started in 2010 during the Wold Cup just aged 18! Today, he is featured across African business media: his tours are a hit and he had soon to expand his bike network. Tours cost R200 (around $18) for two-and-a-half hours, or R400 ($37) for four hours ( assume he may have around 5- 10 people in each tour). I love doing the calculations: So if he works just for 4 hours a day (which is not much!) with ten tourists 5 days a week he makes a revenue of US$7,400 each month !

Think out of the box!


2)  Find a national theme that sells

What you come up with depends on which popular national treasuries or compelling stories you have to share. Think of ‘ A Nollywood Movie Tour’ in Nigeria, which could possibly include visits to some film sets, dining like the actors, and a night at a Nollywood movie cinema.  Think of ‘ On the trail to the birth of coffee’ , visiting a local coffee plantation in Ethiopia where tourists can experience picking some red beans themselves, processing show case, tales & symbolism, and enjoying a traditional coffee ceremony in the middle of nature.  What else could sell to Western, Asian, and African tourists alike ? I am brainstorming:…..an authentic night in an African village…..creative historic tours, which are rare to find in Africa……survival training & backpacking….following the routes of the slave trade …..experiencing local culture: including possibly cooking classes for national dishes, a visit at a local church or mosque, a music or dance show, and maybe even regular arrangements for small groups to experience local weddings.


3) Romantic honeymoons with a twist

Africans celebrate weddings. It’s huge. The concept of honeymoons is not so common. If couples take a time out, it is usually at some kind of location nearby. But with a fast growing upper middle class, this is soon to change. Honeymoon packages across Africa will sell to both Africans and others. Add something creative and unique to the traditional romantic options.


4) Investment & trade tours

Trade missions are rare and are usually offered by foreign entities that work closely together with government. Business travel has seen a sharp increase in Africa during recent years and the market would certainly be there for you. You could combine holiday and businesses in one package providing an insight into local business opportunities and including networking events or meetings with industry associations and firms seeking partners or investors. This is such a great niche !


5) Family friendly holidays

Big gap. Yes, you can take your children to holiday with you, but be prepared to find little program and recreation activities for the small ones in Africa’s tourist destinations and resorts. Come up with wonderful activities for children and partner with some hotels in this regard.


6) Summer vacation camps for African children and youth

Happy school children playing tug of war with rope in park

This is a concept that is pretty popular across the Western world and I can imagine it would be an absolute hit with well-off busy parents in Africa. They book their children to go on a holiday camp for 2 weeks during school breaks – you offer swimming, climbing, excursions, bonfire & party, and much, much more – while parents work. I have visited man exciting summer camps in Germany and France when I was young and can tell you many wonderful tales.  

7) Weekend retreats

The concept of retreats is good business both in the Eastern World and in the West, and I believe it could be an interesting niche in Africa. Most of it would have deep spiritual or relaxing aspects. Including praying, meditation, fitness and wellness, massages and in general just getting away from the stresses of daily life in the city. Remember, stand out to sell, especially if you have a quite competitive tourist market, and weekend retreats can deliver uniqueness.


8) Student travel on university campuses

Frankly, I am not sure if this would work in some of Africa’s larger cities, but it is certainly worth looking into. I remember that we had a student travel office at our university campus and one more in town that offered amazing deals for students – and it was pretty popular. They arranged big discount with air plane carriers, bus companies, and tours that would simply not sell out for various reasons – low season, wrong forecast, last-minute free spaces….in Africa you may add a sudden decline in tourism due to perceived threats. Travel and tour companies would then sell some of these spots at a cheap rate to the campus travel agency and make students very happy. It would be a pretty new concept in Africa, but it may work very well in locations like South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, or Egypt among other.

Do some research starting with your  target market – the students. Ask them about their travel patterns, challenges, and dreams and if they would buy.


9) Online platform for affordable tourist accommodation in private homes

Many people who travel to or within Africa are unable or unwilling to pay for expensive hotels. This include international students, start up entrepreneurs, or simply people and families who are not so well off. You may have heard of the site Airbnb.com – which offers alternative accommodation in private houses across the world. People can upload their accommodation opportunities and you can book them as a guest. A night in a family home in major cities may cost you for example  $15 or $30. The fairly new platform is so successful the business is now estimated to be worth billions. Although they do offer some accommodation across Africa, I think you can replicate a somewhat similar model specialized for a particular African country or region. Many families or professional do not want to go to the lengthy process of dealing with the complex upload and communication with visitors or are not aware of the site. If you can start with getting 10 family homes in a certain African city on your local accommodation platform and then grow it from there – we are talking. $5 per night could go to you. It has huge scalability and returns for you would add up nicely with little expenditure. 


10)  Unconventional holiday tour site

Look at some of the ideas above, and see what kind of adventurous, rare, crazy, and unconventional holiday tours and experiences are available in Africa already. A hot air balloon flight over the Masai Mara Mara in Kenya for example is one of them. You could then create an online market platform for all of these rare tours across the continent. Your aim would be to become a popular go-to-site for people who look beyond the typical 2 week beach or safari holiday. A site that is known for truly unconventional African holidays. Similar like a hotel booking site, you make your money simply by aggregating the offers out there. You will need the permission and commission agreement with the companies in charge. Each booking made through your site would simply get you a healthy percentage of the sale. It is all tracked automatically with an affiliate link that you would install at your site – the tracking usually works 6 months or so. That means people do not need to book the holiday immediately. Even if they visit the company website itself 2 months later, the system will still have recorded that the first contact was made through you.

And now?

Easy. Start thinking, designing and planning – you can start the process of all ideas above immediately – number 4) , 9) and 10) can be perfectly managed from abroad most of the time. You can start all of the above models as a home based business. Not much needed to get you going for these tourism options as long as you are motivated, creative, and visionary. What do you think? We would love to hear from you, Africa Business Jumpstarters, please leave us some messages below!


Dr. Harnet
Dr. Harnet Bokrezion is the Founder of africajumpstart.com and co-author of the book '101 Ways to Make Money in Africa'. She coaches individuals and consults existing companies assisting them to make smart and strategic business decisions in Africa’s new emerging markets faster and more confidently. Dr. Harnet also regularly writes for the renowned DHL powered publication howwemadeitinafrica.com. Get in touch to inquire how she can be of assistance to your own Africa business endeavors: harnet@africajumpstart.com

User Comments ( 7 )

  • Israel OCholi John

    Dear Bokrezion,

    My name is Israel John, i’m a Nigerian Citizen. Well, i just don’t know what else to say, than to ask God to reward you & your partner for all your efforts & helping hands in Africa.
    Well i finds very delighted & motivated when i read on of post today about How to Start in Africa Tourism Industry. I think i now business idea now after going through the post, because, before i have no idea on what to do, i was confuse about business. Thank you so much for opening my eyes today.
    But Please i will still need you help on how to design a online tourism business.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Israel OCholi

      Good to hear you found the post useful.
      I think before you worry how to design something online, you should really be very sure what kind of tourism business you want to start. Play around with several ideas and then work out a strong business concept addressing: 1) which problem you want to to solve / need you want to fill 2) what services or products you will offer 3) who your target market is 4) your competitions and how you stand out from them.
      Once all of this is clear you can determine if you need a simple website or a online platform – you can pay professional freelancers at elance.com to create it for you.
      Hope this helps. Good luck and a warm welcome to Africa Business Jumpstart!

  • Israel John

    Hi Dr. Harnet,

    Thank you so much for your quick replyed & your word of encouragement, i really appreciate it.
    I will surely do as you told me, & i will contact you immediately if i need more advise from you. Thank you so much!

    Israel John

  • Israel Ocholi John

    Hello Dr.Harnet,

    It’s my pleasure to write to you again! Now i have decided the business platform i want to venture in Africa withing the Tourism Industry, which is ” Online Platform for affordable Tourist and job seekers accommadations in a private homes in Africa.
    Please, how much would it cost me to hire a proffessional to creat a online platform for me at elance.com, as you said! Please, do have any idea?
    Thank you & regards

    Israel Ochol John

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Israel

      Great, I am so glad you found one of the ideas on Africa Business Jumpstart useful and are ready to get started. Yes, elance.com is the right place for a website, but I would not rush to have that done first. I would get out there and find out more about your market first! Talk to tourist agencies in your city to see what the gaps are and speak to house owners and get some feedback if they would love to make some extra cash by renting rooms to tourists and possibly even offering breakfast. Start writing down a concept where you think of everything you will need. Also think exactly about WHO you are targeting, what kind of tourists? African tourists or travelers? Western tourists? Are they mostly students and young people? etc.

      The cost of a website designer will depend on where the designer is based and what site you want. Getting an e-commerce site done, where people book directly on the site can be very expensive, so I would start with a very simple page where you simply include an e-mail address (contact form) and a telephone number. And make agencies aware of you, so they can refer customers.

      Good luck, feel free to ask additional questions you may have!

  • Israel John

    Hello Dr.Harnet,

    I want to thank you for using your precious time to get back to me, i really appreciate it! I have heard what you said i will defenately carry on with those ideas you gave me.
    Presently, the only site that’s making wave in Africa is sleepout.com in the east african, and am planing to set up a website similar to http://www.VRBO.com, http://www.homeaway.com or http://www.housetrip.com. Please, Dr Harnet, i appreciate all your effort and help, thank you! Please i still need more ideas, advise, and help from you on this new platform.

    Israel John

  • Komakech samuel

    after reading these opportunities in tourism industry, i feel much relieved now and im looking forward for more consultations on this subject matter. thanks for rising our entrepreneurial spirit.