Tourism can help development in Africa: UNWTO report

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Tourism can be a powerful tool to help sustainable development in Africa, according to a report published  by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

“To better harness the potential of the tourism sector, to contribute to inclusive growth, structural transformation and the achievement of the (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, Africa should adopt policies which strengthen inter-social linkages, boost international tourism and promote peace,” the report said.

It explains that between 2011 and 2014, tourism contributed 166 billion U.S. dollars to gross domestic product (GDP), making up 8.5 percent of the continent’s GDP, while at the same time creating 21 million jobs: 7.1 percent of all jobs in Africa.

UNWTO executive director for operational programs and institutional relations Marcio Favalla said 58 million international tourists visited Africa in 2016, 4 million more than in 2015 with tourism receipts growing by 8 percent, to 16 billion U.S. dollars.

“In the last 16 years it is good to remember Africa has been one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. It is estimated it will receive 130 million arrivals by 2030,” he said.

However, Favalla highlighted the need for better marketing “to improve perceptions of the continent and stronger focus on regional and domestic markets, along with investment on infrastructure” and the promotion of “safe, secure and seamless travel.” He also said better air connectivity would help improve links.

Meanwhile Claudia Roethlisberger, economist in the United Nations Conference of Research and Development (UNCTAD), explained tourism in Africa was “important, but it could do more.”

“It needs attention and investment,” she said, highlighting tourism’s contribution to the African economy and highlighting that in sub-Sahara Africa the majority of international tourists were Africans rather than from other continents.

“What we see is that especially the small island development states are dependent on tourism,” she commented, saying around 25 percent of the GDP in Cape Verde and over 60 percent in the Seychelles comes from tourism.

Roethlisberger stressed the importance of tourism throughout Africa,” given that it is labor intensive and that almost half of the jobs created were for women.”

Tourism also had a role to play in the promotion of peace in Africa. “African governments and tourism authorities can play a role so that people from outside of the continent get a different picture to that presented in the international press,” she highlighted.

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