African tourism continues to grow

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“Tourism is growing in Africa through visitation from countries outside of Africa as well as across the region. Africa is poised for tourism growth,” Dr Hannah Messerli, senior private sector development specialist/tourism for the World Bank told CNBC Africa.

She explained that tourism was on the rise in the continent, not just for game parks and wild life sighting activities but also for cultural, medical, sport, business and adventure reasons too.

“Currently tourism almost contributes three per cent of GDP [gross domestic product]. It’s an essential activity that builds competitiveness and productivity,” said Messerli.

“One in 20 jobs across Sub-Saharan Africa are in tourism, it can make a difference for both youth and women. Many women work in the sector as well as own business in the tourism sector.”

Across each African region, she added, a diverse range of activities and sights are on offer, adding to the continent’s increasing popularity.

For instance, West Africa has great beaches and culture, East Africa has unique animals, islands and a great coastline whereas Southern Africa has superb national parks as well as cultural and business related tourist activities.

“Each region has its own offering and it’s the diversification of those offerings that attracts visitors,” explained Messerli.  

On the other hand, challenges exist on the continent in terms of infrastructure, governance and skills development.

“Tourism is an activity that requires airports, roads hotels and important skills by local populations. Those are all areas that Africa can grow in its offerings in terms of improving over time,” she explained.

Also, the visa requirements for each country have also proven to be strenuous and time consuming.

Therefore, she pointed out, the World Bank is working with southern African governments to roll out a uni-visa for tourists to enable cross border travel throughout southern Africa.

“Through this activity, cross border trade in the form of tourism is one of the constraints that can be addressed and really enable people to travel across different countries in Africa,” Messerli concluded.