Africa Travel Week
ATW Cannabis Tourism

High time for cannabis tourism to take off in Africa

A recent study commissioned by the Dutch government found that a whopping 58% of international tourists visit Amsterdam specifically to enjoy drugs. But with legal cannabis on an upward trend globally, there has been a corresponding increase in travel bookings to destinations where pot is available. It seems that Amsterdam’s monopoly on this front may soon end. 

Thailand has just jumped on the bandwagon, which is estimated will attract three million additional tourists annually. In addition, promoting “weed-friendly” destinations is key to growing the Millennial and Gen Z markets. According to Forbes, 50% of Millennials say access to legal recreational cannabis is essential when choosing a holiday destination.  

Why South Africa is the “gateway” to cannabis tourism 

“Durban Poison is the most recognised marijuana brand in the world,” says cannabis consultant Pierre van der Hoven. “There has never been a better time to capitalise on it. South Africa has the most liberal cannabis laws in Africa and allows private use of marijuana.”  

According to Pierre, the sale of the drug is “overlooked or tolerated” and there are currently several cases on appeal in South African courts that could open the doors for cannabis tourism in the country.  

But what about the rest of Africa? There are green shoots. A grower in Lesotho was the first in an African country to obtain a medical marijuana licence. Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana and eSwatini all grow cannabis for export. However, Pierre says this does not make them “cannabis-friendly” destinations, and tourists still run the risk of being arrested for buying or consuming marijuana. “As soon as South Africa allows the free consumption of dagga for adults, the rest of Africa will follow,” Pierre predicts.  

The future of cannabis tourism in Africa 

Two demographics of cannabis travellers could contribute to the growth of tourism in Africa. “The first is the traveller that consumes marijuana for recreational purposes, just as others drink alcohol on holiday. The second is the tourist with a distinct interest in marijuana. They would want to visit farms in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal to meet the artisanal growers and sample the products,” Pierre says.  

He compares this to the market for craft beer, adding that it would also boost tourism in rural areas and create additional revenue streams for farmers.  

“I also see the potential for venues to market themselves as cannabis friendly. In the US, they have a platform called Hibnb where you can book your accommodation and order marijuana to be delivered upon arrival. That would work here. In South Africa, I’d like to see restaurants or bars be able to offer areas where patrons can smoke and advertise it by using a leaf in their marketing materials,” says Pierre.  

With medical marijuana available in some of South Africa’s biggest pharmacies, and CBD products going mainstream, SA is already considered cannabis friendly. The market, Pierre says, is currently well ahead of legislation, and Africa is sitting on a potential gold mine. 

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.