UNECA urges more focus on growing Africa’s aviation, tourism

Ms Giovanie Biha
Ms Giovanie Biha

The Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Ms. Giovanie Biha, has called for a focus on maximising the opportunities in the aviation and tourism sectors.

Speaking at a two-day meeting in Addis Ababa, Ms Biha was reported to have urged African experts to focus on the acknowledged central role of aviation in supporting tourism, and said that more still needs to be done on the continent to harmonise aviation and tourism policies.

A statement issued by the ECA quoted Ms Biha as saying: “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.”

“But if these socio-economic benefits are to be fully harnessed, tourism and aviation must address persisting divergent policies and work towards a stronger, integrated position on inter-sectorial issues.”

According to the ECA 53 percent of over 1.2 billion tourists travelled by air to reach international destinations in 2014. This number covered 80 percent for Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The meeting was to look into a new report on aviation and tourism policies in Africa as tourism fast becomes an important vehicle for the continent’s economic development: “Fostering Africa’s Tourism Growth: The Aviation and Tourism Policy”.

According to the statement, the ECA Deputy Executive Secretary also highlighted that both aviation and tourism jointly support in excess of 58 million jobs and more than 2.4 trillion dollars in global GDP.

The report, commissioned by the ECA on the two economic sectors, is said to have identified a number of factors constraining the growth of the two industries including unfavourable regulatory environments, policies that limit air connectivity, restrictive visa regimes, uncoordinated consumer protection regulations, restrictive taxes and other levies.

“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,”  Stephen Karingi, Director of ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD) was quoted as saying.

The ECA says tourism’s contribution to GDP on the continent ranges from as low as 4.5 per cent in countries such as Burundi, to 56.5 per cent on the higher level for a country like Seychelles.

United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) projects that international tourist arrivals will increase by approximately 3.3 per cent every year from 2010 to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, Africa’s share of international tourist arrivals according to 2013 figures, was low and only at about 5 per cent of the global total.

During the last quarter of 2015, the World Tourism Organization also announced that tourism grew globally but decreased in Africa by about 5 per cent.

According to the ECA, experts blame Africa’s low share in international tourist arrivals on the general poor performance of the aviation industry, which accounted for a mere 3 per cent of global air transportation in 2013.

By Emmanuel Odonkor

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