Growing Focus on Tourism Industry to Generate Development

Many African governments emphasize on the need for a tourism sector which is both eco-friendly and economically viable to generate sustainable revenue. Although Africa accounts for 15% of the world population, it receives only about 3% of world tourism. To maximize the continent’s untapped tourism potential, heads of states are investing in key infrastructural sectors such as in transport, energy, water and telecommunications.

Countries such as Ethiopia are aware of the potential role of tourism as an economic opportunity and development catalyst, and have drafted strategic plans to develop the sector. However, the extent to which the actual implementation of those plans are taken as  national priorities vary significantly from country to country. Seychelles, Tanzania, Gambia, Kenya and South Africa are putting significant efforts into advancing travel and tourism development.

An ever-increasing number of destinations worldwide have opened up to, and invested in tourism, turning it into a key driver of socio-economic progress through the creation of jobs and enterprises, export revenues, and infrastructural development. Over the past six decades, tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification, to become one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world says the United Nations World Trade Organization’s (UNWTO).

Tourism has shown virtually uninterrupted growth. International tourist arrivals have increased from 25 million globally in 1950 to 113 million in 2014. Likewise, international tourism receipts earned by destinations worldwide have surged from US$ 2 billion in 1950 to 124 billion in 2014. International tourist arrivals worldwide are expected to increase by 3.3% a year between 2010 and 2030 to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, according to UNWTO’s long-term forecast. Between 2015 and 2030, arrivals in emerging destinations are expected to increase at twice the rate of those in advanced economies. The market share of emerging economies is expected to reach 57% by 2030, equivalent to over 1 billion international tourist arrivals.

Prioritization of the travel and tourism sector has an important impact on competitiveness. The government can channel funds to essential development projects and coordinate the actors and resources necessary to develop the sector. The government can also play an important role in directly attracting tourists through national marketing campaigns. These includes measures of government spending, effectiveness of marketing campaigns and country branding.

Developing an internationally competitive tourism sector requires a certain degree of openness and travel facilitation. Restrictive policies such as cumbersome visa requirements diminish the willingness of tourists to visit a country, and indirectly reduce the availability of key services. On the other hand, introducing lower costs related to travel in a country increase its attractiveness for many travelers as well as for investors in the sector. Availability of online services and business operations have increased internet usage for planning itineraries and booking travel and accommodation using technology platforms provided by companies such as Jovago. Cheaper airline tickets, transport charges, hotel accommodation, cost of living and fuel price costs also indirectly motivate visitors to travel.

Countries with natural resources have a strong advantage in attracting tourists. The number of international conferences taking place in a country is included to capture business travelers. Sub-Saharan Africa has significant potential, notably due to richness in natural resources and the potential to further develop cultural resources. However, it is still mostly in the early stages of development and strongly connected with more general and longstanding development challenges, including infrastructure as well as easy access. While improvements have been achieved in these areas, especially at the local level, they remain important hurdles to attracting international tourists.

By Eden Sahle

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