African countries are enjoying a higher growth rate in international tourism arrivals than the global average, thanks in part to more sophisticated travelers and their desire for more unique experiences. And African governments are increasingly promoting the destinations that provide such experiences. But to keep pace with what is projected to become a $2 trillion industry by 2020, the region requires significant development in tourism, according to Edward Bergman, executive director of the Africa Travel Association, a New York-based travel industry trade association that has promoted tourism to Africa for the past 32 years.
“People are traveling to Africa and to keep pace with the expected growth of arrivals, increased opportunities exist for tourism infrastructure investment,” says Bergman, a major force behind the association’s Destination Africa campaign.
Bergman sees room from a growing need for affordable hotel rooms to a lack of hospitality and tourism education institutions across the continent, for potential investors to profit from the tourism industry and contribute to the continent’s economic growth.
Today, tourism accounts for 231 million jobs globally, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. Further development of the industry in Africa will increase work opportunities, improving the region’s economics and its citizens’ quality of life.
With opportunities in the area of tourism for both small and large investors, this sector offers significantly lower entry barriers than other industries that are connected to Africa’s natural resources. Tourism also gives investors the chance to help develop the region rather than exploit it.
“When you think about it, tourism is the only export industry that doesn’t take anything
out of the country, when planned and managed properly,” Bergman says. Sports and faith-based tourism, as well as gourmet and film industry tours, are but a few of the available access points. Experts believe tourism could potentially be the key to preserving the region’s cultural and natural resources.
“Tourism as an industry is a public-private partnership,” says Bergman. “Governments need to create an enabling environment and promote the destinations, and the private sector has to sell the package to tourists.”
This month, the Africa Travel Association, in collaboration with the Corporate Council on Africa, will host the inaugural Africa Tourism & Sports Marketing Seminar at The New York Times travel show to promote sports in Africa and highlight the investment benefits the region has to offer. For more information, visit www.africatravelassociation.org.