'SA needs to be more like Ethiopia, Africa's fastest growing travel economy'

2019-05-03 15:00 - Selene Brophy
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In 2018 Africa reached 67 million international tourist arrivals, a growth of 7% on 2017, comfortably ahead of the world average growth of 6%.

Speaking at the opening of Indaba, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom says this  “represents 5% of all global international arrivals, up nearly 14 million from the low of 2015” - a year when the continent faced the challenge of Ebola.

And these are not the only challenges experiences by the continent or South Africa – with recovery from ongoing visa changes and drought crisis in one of our most popular cities, Cape Town.      

“We have grown on average by almost 8% for three years in a row,” states Hanekom.

READ: Could this new tech initiative revolutionise the tourism industry in SA?

The minister  Ethiopia’s role in Africa as the fastest growing Travel Economy saying - In total, directly and indirectly, the tourism sector contributed 8.5% to African GDP in 2018, “supporting more than 24 million jobs on the continent, or 6.7% of all jobs”.

“When you think of the people one income earner often supports in our societies, this is really significant.”

Ethiopia is setting the place globally in fact “growing by 48.6% in 2018. “

“This extraordinary growth is mostly attributed to Ethiopia’s success in establishing itself as regional transport hub,” says Hanekom.

The recent Ethiopian Airlines Boeing Max 8 crash is a major setback, with the investigation squarely laying accountability at the plane manufacturer’s feet and not the airline. The model remains grounded globally as investigations continue. 

READ: Boeing CEO admits MCAS risk must be fixed after preliminary crash report clears Ethiopian Airlines' pilots of error

 “Air Ethiopia must be acclaimed for bringing volumes of tourists to the whole African continent. Visa relaxation also played a significant role in spurring Ethiopia’s growth, something again which many of our countries could learn from, especially South Africa,” Hanekom said in his Indaba opening speech.

Air access certainly has been a core driving force in the Western Cape – with a momentous direct route set to come into effect in December between Cape Town and New York   as United Airline tickets are now on sale

African countries must remain resilient

The minister also shared how 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”.

Hanekom shared how Kenya saw excellent performance in 2018, with tourist arrivals growing by a whopping 37% to surpass the 2 million mark for the first time ever.

He cautioned that  while these figures “are impressive, the overall tourism contributions to GDP in Africa is still well below the global average of 10.4% of GDP”.

READ: Ethiopia overtakes Dubai as leading air traffic gateway to Africa   

“What this tells us is that we have huge unrealised potential to unlock”, in light of the UNWTO prediction that 1.8 billion people will be travelling globally by 2030.

  “Africa will increase its share from our current 5% to 7% of all global arrivals. This would be 126 million arrivals; almost double the number we have now!

 In this regard Hanekom urged a stronger focus on Responsible Tourism practices and principles.

He acknowledged the early warning signs of climate change, showing how its impact in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and on South Africa’s east coast can affect the lives of thousands and even more so the tourism sector.

“We simply must practice responsible tourism. We must fiercely conserve our natural environment.  And tourism must bring tangible and lasting benefits to everyone,” says  Hanekom.

A special collection desk has been set up at the main registration area, for people to offer their donations. Funds collected will be channelled through carefully selected non-profit organisations, to ensure proper distribution and allocation.

READ: Earth Day 2019: It needs more than just a day, because we are running out of time

“In the spirit of Ubuntu, we would like to give you, the tourism industry, an opportunity to open your hearts and extend a helping hand to the victims.”  

Africa’s Travel Indaba, taking place in Durban until 4 May, is showcasing some of Africa’s finest tourist offerings. Others highlights include:

  • Green Stand Awards – brought to Indaba for the very first time after successful runs at Meetings Africa
  • Wall Mural unveiling
  • Sho’t Left Travel Week launch for 2019
  • Lap of Luxury pavilion at the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa stand

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