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UNWTO’s 2030 agenda: African tourism leaders plot future growth of continent’s sector

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African tourism lweaders during the meeting in Saint Petersburg


Following the recently released UNWTO’s 2030 Agenda for Africa, leaders from across Africa have met in Saint Petersburg ahead of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to discuss the key issues facing the continent as it looks to grow its tourism sector and harness it as a key driver of economic development and social transformation.

Held in the historic Tauride Palace, the 62nd meeting of the UNWTO’s Regional Commission for Africa (CAF) came on the back of the latest Barometer from the United Nations specialized agency for sustainable and responsible tourism. This most recent data shows that international tourist arrivals to African destinations grew by 3% during the first six months of the year when compared with 2018. In particular, North African destinations continue to bounce back from recent difficulties, enjoying a 10% increase in arrivals for the six months.

The key focus of the CAF meeting was the UNWTO’s 2030 Agenda for Africa. This blueprint for the future of African tourism was launched after the UNWTO’s African Member States requested help in drawing up plans for growing and managing tourism and in making the sector a central driver of economic growth and sustainable development.

Addressing the meeting, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “Africa has everything to position itself as a global tourism leader. 60% of Africans are under the age of 25. And African cities are real hubs of innovation, with entrepreneurs and innovators finding new ways to manage how we travel. With a concerted approach we can expect international tourist arrivals to Africa to reach 135 million by 2030. Together, we can ensure that this is good news for everyone. More tourists mean more jobs, more schools and greater protection for cultural and natural heritage.”

The African delegates remained in St Petersburg for the 23rd session of the UNWTO’s General Assembly, the most important high-level event for the global tourism sector. Held every two years, this General Assembly focused on tourism’s role in the global Sustainable Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular emphasis on the sector’s role in education, job creation and tackling climate change.

Tourism is one of the most important industries in Africa and contributed 8.5 per cent (or $194.2bn) of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Africa was also the second-fastest growing tourism region with 5.6 per cent growth in 2018 against a global average growth rate of 3.9 per cent.

The WTTC research found that tourism in Africa was mainly (71 per cent) leisure-driven, with the remainder (29 per cent) being business-driven. Domestic tourism contributed 56 per cent with international tourism contributing 44 per cent to Africa’s tourism industry.

Africa received around 5 per cent of the estimated 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals in 2018 according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). North Africa, consisting of Algeria, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia received around 2 per cent of the international tourist arrivals. Egypt is classified as being part of the Middle East by the UNWTO. Sub-Saharan Africa consisting of the remaining African countries received around 3 per cent of the international tourist arrivals in 2018. 

International tourist arrivals around the world grow at around 4 per cent per annum. International tourist arrivals to Africa grows at around 5 per cent per annum with North Africa growing at around 4 per cent, while Sub-Saharan Africa grows around 6 per cent per annum. 

The potential of Africa’s tourism industry is demonstrated when comparing the top tourism destinations in the world. Top tourism destinations in Africa area Morocco with around 11 million tourist arrivals per annum and South Africa with around 10 million tourist arrivals per annum. The top tourism destinations in the World are France with around 87 million tourist arrivals per annum, and Spain with around 82 million tourist arrivals per annum.


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UNWTOZurab Pololikashvili
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