afrol News, 11 March - As the global travel industry is set to rebound in 2010, perspectives for sub-Saharan Africa are especially good. The region is living a long-term trend of growing market shares in the important tourism industry.
After a chilling 2009, the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) forecasts a growth of 3 to 4 percent in international tourism this year. The rise follows a 4 percent drop in tourism in 2009 and a loss in earnings of 6 percent during a year that was dominated by the global financial crisis.
But even during the crisis, one single region managed to see strongly increased tourist numbers. While international tourist arrivals to sub-Saharan Africa had increased by 3 percent in 2008 - around the global average - arrivals grew by an impressive 6 percent in 2009, while global tourism otherwise was in a recession.
And Africa's tourism industry is predicted to defend last year's increased global market share. Forecasts from UNTWO even predict that sub-Saharan Africa's market share will continue growing for years to come.
While the UN agency predicts a global growth in tourism of 3 to 4 percent this year, the forecast for Africa is a growth of 4 to 7 percent in international tourist arrivals in 2010. Only the forecasts for the Middle East and North Africa region are more optimistic (5 to 9 percent).
The 2010 football world cup in South Africa, including all the media attention it is getting, is set to become an extra boost for tourism in the Southern African region, UNTWO holds. Therefore, the forecast for sub-Saharan Africa for 2010 is seen as conservative.
While North Africa is developing into a new charter tourism stronghold for Europeans - given a strongly growing infrastructure and very favourable price levels compared to "old" Mediterranean destinations - sub-Saharan Africa is developing into the trendy, modern destination for individualised tourism. Analysts remain unsure whether this trend will see a take-off or sub-Saharan Africa will remain a "secret tip" destination for many years.
UNTWO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai nevertheless signals his agency wants to contribute to accelerate this trend of strong growth in "emerging regions" - which include developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The global tourism industry last year agreed on a roadmap to recovery and Mr Rifai sees 2010 and 2011 "not as mere years of recovery, but as years of real transformation." This transformation includes a shift towards a "green economy", but also as a means for the tourism industry to focus on social aspects and development issues.
"How can travel and tourism contribute to fair globalisation, global equity and shared benefits?" Mr Rifai asks, saying this is a key question for the transformation of the global tourism industry. "The need for inclusion and global outreach is essential in all our actions," he holds, outlining UNTWO policies for 2010 and 2011 in a speech in Berlin yesterday.
Mr Rifai however also emphasised the need for governments to get deeper involved in the tourism industry. "We cannot build a meaningful public-private partnership without strong, healthy and identifiable national public policies on travel and tourism," Mr Rifai said.
While sub-Saharan Africa still is a minor tourism region, development possibilities are enormous for countries playing their cards right. The tourism industry is one of the world's top job creators, directly employing more than 75 million people world-wide and the industry trades an estimated US$ 1 trillion a year. In some developing countries, it contributes for up to 45 percent of export earnings.
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