Amid the numerous world-changing events of the 19th century including the appearance of the first set of electronic devices (the light bulb, telegraph and the telephone), the collapse of major empires, the abolishment of slave trade, the Fulani Jihad in Nigeria and believe it or not, the start of the Temperance Movement – a social movement for the regulation or even complete ban of alcoholic beverages – there was one occurrence that shaped what we now know as tourism forever.

From the beginning of the documented history of man travelling, dating as far back as ancient Egypt until the 16th century, travelling was the exclusive preserve of the very wealthy. However, technological developments such as the development of railway networks, steam ships and air travel paved the way for the not so rich and the middle class to begin taking trips for leisure and business.

Howbeit, it was not until a young man who had joined the Temperance Movement protesting against the consumption of alcohol in England organized an excursion for a group of 570 protesters that tourism as a business was invented in 1841. The young man at the time, Thomas Cook,  is now credited with being the founding father of commercial tourism and his tourism company still operates today.

Tourism has grown from the shillings business it was back in Cook’s day to a multi-trillion dollar industry as at 2015 according to the UNWTO.

Through tourism, development is pollinated, cultural and social exchanges are encouraged, education and knowledge is enhanced, international peace and cross-cultural tolerance is fostered and numerous employment opportunities are created.

According to the UNWTO, tourism is projected to keep growing at 3.3% until 2030. This automatically means more jobs will be created as well as an increased economic prosperity for the countries and peoples involved.

Currently, it is estimated that 1 out of every 10 jobs globally is provided by the tourism sector. What then is the implication of this for young people?

Youth unemployment around the world is at an alarming rate with young Africans being among the worst hit. However, the potential for tourism and youth involvement therein in Africa is still mostly untapped. The African tourism goldmine is one that has only been explored by a few countries.

Africa is rich with heritage, wildlife, flora, culture and mind-blowing landscapes. Save for some countries like Kenya, Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and a few others that have structured, developed and functional tourism operations, most African countries have yet to harness their tourism capabilities.

However, there are a number of ways young people can take advantage of the burgeoning tourism sector especially in Africa. Some ways are highlighted below:

Travel Agency: The growing middle class in Africa is a good case for the creation of travel agencies with specialized packages for various needs and budgets. The potentials here are enormous.

Travel Advice: Young people with an understanding of their terrain and sites of tourist attraction in their countries can provide travel advice on the best places to visit, hotels to stay, activities to engage in and even souvenirs to acquire.

Tour Guide: Young people can serve as tour guides to visitors. Exceptional tour guides can be the difference between a boring site visit and one where the visitor gets the feeling that they have become historians after the visit. With the skill of storytelling, you can just become the tour guide that a tourism location needs to transform their perception.

Travel Photography: Take pictures of beautiful local and international tourism destinations for exhibition and sales.

Souvenir Sales: You could sell pictures, local art, jewelry, accessories and fashion items that helps visitors sustain the memories of their trip.

Travel Blogging/Vlogging: A number of young people around the world are making a living by sharing their experiences about the places they have visited. While most do this by writing about their experiences like Young Adventuress some share videos like Alana Chan. What they share help other people planning to make similar trips while others simply take imaginary trips through the pictures, writings and videos they see.

Travel Apps: If information technology is your forte, you can create apps that make the travel experience for visitors more enjoyable. For example, a local language app that translates English to a local language for the tourist to communicate with locals will avail the visitor a fuller experience.

Promote Peace: One of the key advantages of tourism is its potential for promoting peace among different races, cultures and peoples. You can play your role as a young person promoting peace by through sustainable tourism.

In Nigeria, there are some young people who are advocating and making a living through tourism. For example, Funmi Oyatogun, an advocate for the environment, runs a travel company that organizes group and customized trips for travellers in Nigeria and Africa. Social Prefect also has a reputation for organizing amazing local tours.

The World Tourism Day 2017 is themed Sustainable Tourism – A Tool for Development. The United Nations defines Sustainable Tourism as tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. As a matter of fact, the UN declared 2017, the International Year of Sustainable Tourism.

Therefore, if you are young, there has never been a better time to get involved in the tourism sector than now. African tourism, particularly Nigeria’s, is ripe for harvesting. Young people need to get in and take advantage of the opportunities inherent.

Remember to tour responsibly.

Travel. Enjoy. Respect.