On a continent where unemployment is a major concern, tourism – especially tourism between African countries – is providing hope. The industry is expected to create some 12 million new jobs over the next decade.
“Compared with informal sector activities, from where most Africans derive their incomes, tourism jobs are comparatively well remunerated,” Claudia Roethlisberger said, adding that half of those working in tourism across the continent are aged 25 or younger, and that women make up almost half the workforce in African hotels and restaurants.
“This is an immense opportunity for Africa,” she added.
Citing statistics from a recent UNCTAD report on tourism in Africa, Ms. Roethlisberger said that African tourists are increasingly driving this growth.
“According to the data compiled on intra-African tourist arrivals, four out of 10 international tourists to Africa in 2013 originated from within the continent,” she said.
This is good for local development, Ms. Roethlisberger said, because African tourists tend to spend more on local products and services, compared to tourists from other parts of the globe.
And because regional tourism is more evenly distributed across the year, she said, it can contribute to more stable employment.
But many Africans still find it difficult to travel within their own continent, and Ms. Roethlisberger said there are several measures governments could take to facilitate tourism within the region, such as easing visa requirements.
“If a visa is needed and obtaining a visa is costly or a lengthy process, it constitutes a high transaction costs for tourists,” she said, adding that several countries on the continent have seen regional tourism grow as they have eased visa requirements.
“In Rwanda, the abolition of visa requirements for fellow members of the East African Community in 2011 helped increase intraregional tourists from 283,000 in 2010, to 478,000 in 2013,” she said.
Like visa requirements, poor air connectivity is slowing African tourism. And Ms. Roethlisberger urged African governments to implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision and its promise to open the African skies and create a single air transport market across the continent.
“An analysis carried out in 2014 suggests that if 12 African countries were to implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision, Open Skies for Africa could create an extra 155,000 jobs, result in an increase of almost 5 million passengers, contribute almost US$1.3 billion to the continent’s GDP and generate US$1 billion in consumer benefits,” she said.
Ms. Roethlisberger was speaking at a session of the WTO Public Forum focused on how tourism could contribute more to inclusive growth in the world’s least developed countries.
The forum is an annual event held at the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland. The theme of this year’s edition is “Trade: Behind the Headlines.”