The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), which hosted a two-day experts' meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa last week, urged the need for greater convergence of aviation and tourism industries in Africa. The meeting, following the release of a new report titled, 'Fostering Africa's Tourism Growth: The Aviation and Tourism Policy', aimed to focus on aviation and tourism policies in Africa as tourism fast becomes an important vehicle for the continent's economic development.
Speaking at the meeting the stressed on experts the need to focus on ways through which the continent can maximize cooperative opportunities for the two sectors. In her opening remarks at the meeting Ms. Biha said aviation's central role in supporting tourism is well acknowledged but said more still needs to be done on the continent to harmonize aviation and tourism policies.
"With increased connectivity warranting long term growth for aviation and tourism, the interlinked sectors represents lasting opportunities for all those involved in the tourism value chain," said Ms. Biha. "But if these socio-economic benefits are to fully harnessed, tourism and aviation must address persisting divergent policies and work towards a stronger, integrated position on inter-sectorial issues," she added.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) projects that international tourist arrivals will increase by approximately 3.3 percent every year from 2010 to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. Africa's share of international tourist arrivals, according to 2013 figures, was low at about 5 percent of the global total. The sector's contribution to GDP on the continent ranged from 4.5 percent on the lower end in Burundi for example, and 56.5 percent on the higher level for a country like Seychelles.
Experts blame the poor performance of Africa's aviation industry, which accounted for a mere 3 percent of global air transportation in 2013, for Africa's low share in international tourist arrivals. The new report, which was commissioned by the ECA, identified a number of factors, including unfavorable regulatory environments, policies that limit air connectivity, restrictive visa regimes, uncoordinated consumer protection regulations, restrictive taxes, among others levies, as constraining the growth of the two industries.
According to experts at the meeting, a collective and effective strategy to address these challenges will enable the symbiotic growth for the tourism and air transport to stimulate growth of the overall economy and create opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship as Africa continues to enjoy sustained tourism growth.