Report finds that digitalisation is driving greater convenience for tourists in Africa

A customer making a payment with a card. Picture: Unsplash

A customer making a payment with a card. Picture: Unsplash

Published Jul 1, 2024


Growing digitalisation is driving greater convenience for tourists visiting sub-Saharan Africa. That’s according to the latest Travel Trends 2024 report from the Mastercard Economics Institute.

The report, which analyses consumer spending trends, explained that the fast growth in adopting digital payments has also meant a lower reliance on cash in the region, resulting in shifts in spending patterns within tourism.

The Mastercard Economics Institute said that its data revealed that the percentage of tourism cash volumes, measured by ATM withdrawals as a proportion of card spend, made by tourists while visiting sub-Saharan Africa. dropped to the lowest point on record in 2024, which is about 10 percentage points lower compared to 2019.

It also revealed that domestically, most digital payments across the region are made through mobile money payments and travellers rely on their cards to make payments in the region more than ever before.

Drawing on a unique analysis of aggregated and anonymised transaction data, including Mastercard SpendingPulse and third-party data sources, here are three travel trends which were also noted in the report.

Record-breaking travel

The report revealed that international tourist arrivals to Africa have exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time in the first quarter of 2024.

It said that during the first quarter of 2024, South Africa welcomed 2.4 million visitors from the rest of the world, representing a 15.4% increase compared to the same period in 2023.

Meanwhile, Mauritius recorded a 16% increase over the same period. In 2023, tourist arrivals to Tanzania increased by 24.3% to a record-breaking 1 808 205.

Leisure for longer

The report also showed that travellers to South Africa are extending their trips by almost two extra days from 7.8 to 10.6 days, compared to the period experienced pre-pandemic.

“The global average is one extra day, a trend driven by warmer climates and affordable destinations,” the report explained.

It added: “The Mastercard Economics Institute found a clear inverse relationship between the price of the destination and the incremental number of days tourists spend while in those destinations. In other words, the cheaper the destination, the longer the stay”.

Experience the economy on-the-go

The Travel Trends 2024 report also highlighted that consumers have prioritised meaningful experiences over material goods, even when travelling.

Spending on experiences now totals 12% of tourism sales, according to SpendingPulse Destinations, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment – the highest point in at least five years as of March 2024.

“Memorable events are driving travel trends, whether it is for concerts like Taylor Swift shows or sporting events like the Cricket World Cup,” said Mastercard Economics Institute.