Africa tourism got US$36 billion last year – World Bank

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By Zimbabwe Investor on October 5, 2013. No Comments

Tourists view game at a Tanzanian wildlife haven.

Tourists view game at a Tanzanian wildlife haven.

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa made Sh3.12 trillion ($36 billion) last year from tourism reflecting the sector’s relative immunity to global economic winds, the World Bank has said.

In a new report, the bank notes that at the height of the 2009/10 global economic crisis, Africa’s tourist arrivals grew by almost eight per cent. The growth rate was only second to that achieved in East Asia and the Pacific.

The World Bank says the African tourism industry’s resilience is drawing more and more investments in the sector and is outpacing other regions in the world in new investments.

“Increasing tourist arrivals and spending, even during the recent economic crisis, shows tourism’s significant potential for growth,” the World Bank said in the report.

Africa’s performance in general is at odds with Kenya’s experience. Tourist arrivals last year declined 8.8 per cent partly due to the European economic crisis while earnings fell 7.4 per cent to Sh96.24 billion.

Hotel chains, in particular, have been eager to invest in Africa and are “poised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in Africa over the coming years to meet rising demand”.

Kenya has been a popular destination for these hotels with at least nine companies setting up shop in Nairobi.

If growth is sustained, the bank says, tourism in Africa will employ 16 million people by 2016, up from the current 12.8 million. Yet achieving the desired growth will not be easy, with the report noting African countries will face stiff global competition.

“African destinations must compete against Asia and Central and Latin America which market natural and cultural attractions as well as internationally-benchmarked tourism facilities,” reads the report in part.

The countries have to address health and security concerns, the report says, citing underdeveloped infrastructure in health and transport as challenges.

The report notes that South Africa hosts at least half of Africa’s hotels that meet international standards.

Mature industries

In light of this, African countries need to develop an enabling environment for more investments in accommodation.

Further, countries with more mature industries need to evolve from their traditional tourism products. “It is not enough to have interesting natural and cultural attractions and ‘friendly people,’” reads the report in part.

Kenya, the World Bank says, is at the forefront with increasing investments in meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibition tourism.

Despite this positive trend, data from the Kenya Tourism Board indicates that business travel to Kenya declined by 25 per cent in 2012 due to flight costs and the uncertainty over the March 4 General Election. – Daily Nation