Tourism in Africa is a flourishing industry that supports more than 21 million jobs, or one in 14 jobs, a new report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development says.
The 2017 report on African tourism for inclusive and transformative growth and economic development says that over the last two decades, the continent has recorded robust growth, with international tourist arrivals and tourism revenues growing at 6 and 9 percent, respectively, between 1995 and 2014.
Not all tourists to Africa come from abroad. Four out of ten international tourists in Africa come from the continent itself, according to the UNCTAD report.
In sub-Saharan Africa, this number increases to two out of every three tourists whose travels originate on the continent.
Data backing this key finding show that, contrary to perception, Africans themselves are increasingly driving tourism demand in Africa.
“Tourism is a dynamic sector with phenomenal potential in Africa. Properly managed, it can contribute immensely to diversification and inclusion for vulnerable communities,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.
But the report notes that African governments should take steps to liberalize air transport and promote the free movement of persons in order to realize the potential of intra-regional tourism for the continent’s economic growth.
They should ensure currency convertibility and, crucially, recognize the value of African tourism and plan for it, it adds.
In Rwanda, the abolition of visa requirements for fellow members of the East AfricanCommunity in 2011 helped increase the number of intra-regional tourists from 283,000 in 2010, to 478,000 in 2013, the report cited.
By collecting and comparing data from two different periods, 1995 to 1998 and 2011 to 2014, the report reveals that international tourist arrivals to Africa more than doubled: expanding from 24 million to 56 million.
Meanwhile, tourism export revenues more than tripled, increasing from 14 billion U.S. dollars to approximately 47 billion U.S. dollars. As a result, tourism now contributes about 8.5 percent to the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP).