Tourism in Africa is now on the recovery process from the world economic recession and financial crisis of 2008 and 2010. However, tourism arrivals remain low compared to global averages.
The Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretary General Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya says Africa receives 4.8 percent of the tourism market in the world and 3.3 percent of the world revenue from tourism. “In Africa, a clear pattern of tourism destination is that one third go to Maghreb countries of North Africa, over a third visit Southern Africa, almost a quarter to East Africa, with the rest spread over the rest of Africa,” he said.
Last year, nearly a billion people traveled globally. “When nearly a billion people travel, which was 983 million last year creating a $1.03 trillion revenue base, we call it a phenomena. Last year’s tourists were up 4.6 percent from the 940 million who traveled in 2010,” Sindiso.
According to Sindiso, tourism accounts for six percent of overall export of goods and services therefore has the ripple effect of employment creation in services and industries that include transportation.
COMESA member states are bound by the Manila Declaration of 1980, which put tourism as an “activity essential to the life of nations because of its direct effects on social, cultural education and economic sectors of national societies and on their international relations.”
The COMESA Secretary General said while addressing a forum under the theme “Shaping the future of tourism in Comesa” that funding emerging tourism destinations in the Comesa region, addressing safe air travel and improving the continent as a viable tourism destination to the region.
He lay emphasis on the role of the private sector, especially tour operator’s critical roless in the development of the industry and in promoting the continent as a viable tourism destination. “We must protect those visiting as well as the continent’s inhabitant and ecosystems,” he said. Other challenges include improving overall infrastructure, appealing to more diverse tourism audience and the need to develop domestic or local tourism through intra trade in services.
Tourism is hailed as one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economic sector with the growth particularly likely to be felt in Africa. According to World Tourism Organization tourism will hit the 134 million by the year 2030, this being more than double their long term forecast for the development of international tourism
“Tourism has a significant spill over effect on many other areas of the economy and is thus a powerful driver for the development of infrastructure, agriculture and handicrafts,” said World Tourism Organization Secretary General Taleb Rifai.
But the gains made across Africa are now threatened by political instability, rising terrorism, negative media publicity, increased competition from emerging tourist destinations like Japan and China, erosion of culture and prohibitive cost of doing business that is pushing investors out of the region.
Nations across Africa however are stepping up their popularization of their respective tourism sectors. Kenya for example has established 17 tourism offices overseas and has further created strong institutions which are facilitating the development of the sector in the country.