Over the last decade, international tourist arrivals to Africa have repeatedly outgrown results in other regions. By 2030, Africa’s international tourist numbers could grow from its current 56 million to 134 million and a rising number of African countries have embraced tourism as a priority for their development.
Against this backdrop, participants at the UNWTO Commission for Africa Meeting and the corresponding Seminar on ‘Tourism and Air Connectivity in Africa’ discussed how to overcome existing barriers to advance Africa’s tourism, including travel facilitation, air connectivity and infrastructure development.
“Tourism accounts for 7% of all exports in Africa and 58% of its service exports and is one of the most important sectors for the economies of the continent”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “Yet to fully realize the potential tourism has in promoting growth and development in Africa, it is imperative to work towards a better alignment of tourism and air transport policies in the region”, he added.
The lack of consideration of tourism benefits and coordination between the tourism and aviation sectors, producing suboptimal air transport and tourism policies, infrastructure limitation, unsuitable taxation and restrictive visa policies, were identified as the main factors hampering the development of both tourism and air transport in Africa.
The Seminar laid the groundwork for the first UNWTO & International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Tourism and Transport Ministerial Conference for Africa (14-15 October 2014, Mahé, Seychelles).
Poaching in Africa, a threat to tourism and livelihoods
On the occasion of the UNWTO Commission for Africa Meeting, a special debate was held on the on-going poaching crisis and its impact on tourism and the livelihoods of millions living off the sector in the region. In this regard, Member States mandated UNWTO to pursue its advocacy work in the area of anti-poaching, and explore how the tourism sector can help contribute to the global fight against wildlife crime.
A UNWTO report on the value of wildlife watching tourism in Africa presented at the Meeting confirms wildlife watching tourism as one of the main tourism draws in the majority of the region’s destinations. The report estimates wildlife watching tourists to represent between 80% and 90% of all visitors of protected areas. The report further identifies illegal wildlife trade as a serious issue, clearly affecting tourism development in the region, not only in terms of biodiversity loss, but also as a security threat and a negative factor affecting the international perception of African destinations.
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