Sustainable Tourism: Africa as the fastest growing tourist destination in the world

Tourism watchers are excited! Why? Tourism revenues are the lifeline of many economies. In 2004, proponents of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) approved an action plan to make Africa the “21st century destination.” Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), recently stated that “Africa has been one of the fastest-growing tourism regions of the last decade.… With the right investment, tourist arrivals will continue to grow, investors will see excellent returns, jobs will be created and the entire economy will benefit.”

About 7.7 million people are employed in Africa’s tourism and travel sector, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. Most African governments have tourism in their development strategies, including marketing, research and development, and codes of conduct for tourism. There are plans to invest in major projects likely to generate spin-offs and enhance Africa’s economic integration. Tourist arrivals in Africa grew 8.8 per cent in 2009-2010, the highest rate for any region. Morocco, Angola, Cape Verde, Madagascar, Egypt and South Africa are recording double-digit growth, while Tanzania and Mauritius are not far behind.

The World Bank reports that tourism accounts for 8.9 per cent of East Africa’s GDP, 7.2 per cent of North Africa’s, 5.6 of West Africa’s and 3.9 per cent of Southern Africa’s. In Central Africa, tourism contributes just 1 per cent. However, tourism slowed in North Africa due to recent political developments.

Establishment of relevant infrastructure, safety and security, as well as effective communication of the continent’s attractions can be starting points for Africa to have its share of the large ‘tourism pie’ and its benefits.


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