TANZANIA (eTN) - Africa will be in a good position among other world continents in tourism as the number of foreign tourists visiting several African countries is growing to double in coming years.
Through financial support and growing investments in hotels and air transport, there has been an increase in number of tourists visiting Africa every year, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicts.
UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai said Africa should expect to receive 134 million tourists by the coming 18 years. He said when addressing participants of the First Pan African Conference on Sustainable Tourism Management in African National Parks and Protected Areas in Tanzania, that the African continent stands at a better position to build its tourism.
âEverybody is traveling. It has become a human right to move and travel across the world for business, education, and leisure,â Rifai said.
Nature-based tourism or eco-tourism is a large and growing global industry, partially dependent upon the attributes of the natural environment and biodiversity made up of wildlife and scenery which represent one of Africa's strategic competitive advantages as a destination.
Though the world has entered an age of travel, Rifai said Africa still gets less than five percent of world tourism gains. New partnerships between Africa and the rest of the world after this conference should impulse rekindling of park management structures in order to maximize the economics and social benefits of tourism to local communities, Dr. Rifai said.
Africa's tourism is currently growing at a respectable average rate of 7.2 percent. One out of every 20 jobs in Africa is in the tour and travel industry, UNWTO said. Available statistics indicate African continent received about 50 million tourists last year - a mere fraction of the world total. But supporting and investing in tourism would add more benefits through multiplier effects.
âThe majority of African countries, mostly sub-Sahara African states are embracing tourism as a potential tool for economic development and poverty alleviation tool,â said senior regional tourism adviser with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Geoffrey Manyara.
Eastern African economies have tourism contributing significantly to economic growth and development by over seven percent to their GDP with the exception of DR Congo.
Over the decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening âdiversification to become one of the fastest -growing economic sectors in the world. âModern tourism is closely linked to development and encompasses a growing number âof new destinations. These dynamics have turned tourism into a key driver for socio-âeconomic progress.
Republic of Mali had expressed its commitment to launch a tourism strategy that would help building its bad image, and re-develop its rich historical and cultural heritages sites, once lost their glory through civil strife.