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Travel - Leisure | Economy - Development

Africa tops tourism growth rates for 2006

A rainy day in the historic city of Saint-Louis, one of Senegal's major tourist attractions.

© Pablo Gracia Sáez / afrol News
afrol News, 7 November
- World tourism in 2006 is growing in a third consecutive year, which is providing a sound basis for further growth in the sector in 2007, a new report reveals. With a projected growth rate of 10.6 percent, Africa this year again is the world's leading region when it comes to capitalise this expansion of the sector. Between January and August, international tourist arrivals to Africa increased by 9.8 percent.

The numbers yesterday were released by the Madrid-based the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), in its thrice-annual UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. The UN agency noted a world-wide increase by 4.5 percent in international tourists during the first eight months of this year, compared to the same period last year. "The short term outlook remains very positive, especially against the background of a strong world economy and as favourable exchange rates continue to encourage European and Asian travellers," UNWTO noted.

With a very notable growth rate of 10.6 percent foreseen for the whole of 2006, Africa repeats its position as the fastest growing regional tourist destination from previous years. Although coming short of a boom, the previously undiscovered African destination is slowly becoming an appealing option for travellers.

According to the UNWTO report, Sub-Saharan Africa (+12.6 percent) leads the performance so far, pulled notably by South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Swaziland and the Seychelles. At the same time, in North Africa (+5.9 percent), the two main destinations, Morocco (+9.3 percent) and Tunisia (+2.6 percent), have experienced somewhat different growth paces.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, growth in the tourism sector has been substantial, but unstable during the last few years. This reflects the general insecurity in the sector, which is very exposed to political unrest. Thus, both 2004 and 2005 were very good years at large, although Africa as a destination saw negative growth in the first half of 2004 and in the second quarter of 2005. This year, however, has seen strong growth each and every month so far.

Africa at large, with its growth in arrivals on more than 10.5 percent, this year is followed by the Asia-Pacific region, with a growth rate of 8.3 percent. Also Central and South America experienced a growth close to the double of the world average, while in North America, only the US saw decent growth as Mexico and Canada saw a slowdown of about 4 percent. In Europe, Scandinavia is "in", Mediterranean keeps growing, while the east is detracting.

UNWTO is also fairly optimistic about 2007 and future trends. "The expected 4 percent growth for 2007, though slightly slower than in previous years, is much in line with the UNWTO long-term forecast growth rate of 4.1 percent a year through 2020," according to the report. Africa will still be among the winners in these medium and long term projections.

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