Aidoghie Paulinus, Durban
The Republic of South Africa has emphasized the need for African countries to rise up and harness their tourism potential.
South African Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom made the call during the opening ceremony of the 2019 Africa’s Travel Indaba in Durban, South Africa.
Indaba, an annual African tourism event, is spearheaded by South African Tourism to showcase the tourism potentials of the African continent, particularly South Africa.
Hanekom said the 2019 theme: ‘Africa’s Stories, Your Success’ re-emphasises the importance of telling Africa’s stories and showcasing the successes recorded on the continent.
He further said that, too often, the real stories of Africa are not told and not heard, adding that the African continent is teeming with stories and folklore, which are woven into all the products and experiences that are showcased during Indaba.
Hanekom said in 2018 Africa received 67 million international tourist arrivals, a growth of seven percent on 2017, comfortably ahead of the world average growth of six percent.
This, Hanekom noted, represented five percent of all global international arrivals, up nearly 14 million from the low of 2015, a year when the African continent faced the challenge of Ebola.
“We have grown on average by almost eight for three years in a row,” he noted.
“In total, directly and indirectly, our sector contributed 8.5 percent to African GDP in 2018, supporting more than 24 million jobs on the continent, or 6.7 percent of all jobs. When you think of the people one income earner often supports in our societies, this is really significant,” Hanekom said.
The minister pointed to Ethiopia as Africa’s fastest growing travel economy and the world, growing by 48.6 percent in 2018.
He added that the extraordinary growth was mostly attributed to Ethiopia’s success in establishing itself as a regional transportation hub.
Ethiopia Airline, Hanekom further said, must be acclaimed for bringing volumes of tourists to the continent.
He said visa relaxation also played a significant role in spurring Ethiopia’s growth, urging African countries to learn from the Ethiopian experience.
“Egypt has demonstrated considerable resilience, and through safety improvements, including in key destinations such as Sharm El-Sheikh, have enticed international tourists back to the country.
“Kenya saw excellent performance in 2018, with tourist arrivals growing by a whopping 37 percent to surpass the two million mark for the first time ever.
“But, while these figures are impressive, the overall tourism contributions to GDP in Africa is still well below the global average of 10.4 percent of GDP. What this tells us is that we have huge unrealised potential to unlock,” Hanekom added.
Hanekom also said Indaba must be enhanced every year to drive massive growth in tourism numbers by bringing together a range of Africa’s best and most unique products from across the continent, and connecting them with buyers from across the world.
“We have scenery that would surely surpass any expectation. Vast deserts and huge sand dunes, majestic snow-capped mountains and towering volcanoes, immense lakes and splendid, powerful rivers, rich wetlands, deltas and estuaries, waterfalls including the impressive Victoria Falls, spectacular canyons, endless lengths of magnificent coastline with pristine beaches and imposing rocky formations and cliffs. We have lush vineyards and undulating plantations, rich forests, teeming jungles and rolling savannah, and of course, idyllic tropical islands.
“We have significant and unique heritage and culture from ancient civilisations such as Great Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe, and the rock hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia to the myriad of lively, colourful and joyful African cultures from the Masai to the colourful Herero in Namibia, to the vibrant and energetic Zulu culture here in KwaZulu-Natal. We have the ancient San peoples and their culture, and then, much older, the origins of humankind in the Kenyan Rift Valley, Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge and the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa. The truth is, Africa is the place we all come from, and we must proudly proclaim this,” Hanekom also said.
Hanekom said Africa needed to action the African Union Agenda 2063, especially with respect to free movement of people everywhere on the continent, and the easing or dropping of visa requirements in the next few years to enable this.
“We need to work on all countries signing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), signed by only 23 countries so far. It’s intended to drive down airfares by allowing more airlines to freely access and increase frequency of flights to more countries. We need to be united in our aspiration to build and brand Africa as a continent of successes and opportunity,” Hanekom stated.