Why Africa's festival business is booming

Story highlights

  • Africa's festival market is booming
  • In 2015 the total contribution of travel and tourism in Africa was $180.0bn
  • The Lake of the Stars Festival in Malawi generates over $1 million annually

(CNN)From a stage among the palm trees on the northern shore of Lake Malawi to one of the largest jazz events in the world, Africa is home to some of the world's greatest festivals.

Each year, locals and tourists from neighboring countries and further afield flock to events across the continent. This means good times for performers, visitors and local businesses.
    Among the largest is Morocco's Mawazine, which, according to the organizers, attracted more than 2.6 million visitors this year.
    Justin Timberlake performs at Mawazine in 2014
    Here, local businesses talk of the 'Mawazine Effect', with hotels experiencing an average growth in turnover of 22% during the festival.

    Festivals mean big business for locals

    David Scowsill, President and CEO, World Travel and Tourism Council says large events like music festivals are an important income stream for local communities and the host countries.
    "Events bring people together, get infrastructure built, create jobs and help galvanize communities into action around a common purpose, and if executed rightly, local businesses are at the center of the creation of these types of events."
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    They also create jobs.
    "In Africa the total contribution of travel and tourism in 2015 was $180.0bn, which made up 8.1% of GDP, and the sector supported 7.2% of total employment, which is 22 million jobs," Scowsill says.
    In Malawi the annual Lake of the Stars Festival will kick off this month -- an event that generates over $1 million for the Malawian economy every year, according to the organizers.

    Improving the image of the continent

    Will Jameson, founder and director of the festival, says the event attracts visitors from all over the world and helps raise the the country's profile as a travel destination. Among last year's festival goers, an impressive 34% had traveled from outside Malawi.
    "The festival attracts a strong international audience who combine their attendance at the festival with a visit to other destinations in Malawi," Jameson says.
    Scowsill says festivals can provide an alternative to other conventional tourist attractions.
    "To become and remain an attractive tourist destination, it is important for the place to continue to offer travelers a reason to visit and come back. Festivals, like other big events, are a way for a destination to achieve that, especially if it perhaps lacks other natural or constructed attractions."
    Too far away to visit an African festival this year? Our image gallery above will get you to some of the continent's best festivals in a click.