AND TOURISM IN AFRICA:
By: Helen C. Broadus
BACKGROUND. The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) recently sponsored the Africa Travel, Tourism and Gaming Opportunities Forum. This unique event took place from September 30th to October 2nd, 2002 at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This trade show and conference was geared toward entrepreneurs and companies that are both planning on starting or expanding travel, tourism and gaming-related businesses on the African Continent. The overall purpose of this first-of-a-kind forum was to examine the role of the travel, tourism and gaming industry in the economic growth and development of Africa. This event, which was co-sponsored by the Africa Travel Association (ATA), definitely provided me with an excellent opportunity to learn more about African travel, tourism and gaming opportunities; identify agents, representatives and suppliers; explore joint venture partnerships and strategic alliances; and promote foreign direct investment in Africa with regard to the gaming and tourism industries. Overall, it was truly a great experience and I definitely benefited from my participation.
For instance, I learned that the African travel, tourism and gaming industry represents an emerging market of 31 million travelers with more than $12.4 billion in revenues. Moreover, tourism, including both leisure and business travel is a vital sector to many African national economies and is an important source of foreign exchange. Recent trends in the travel and tourism industry indicate that potential travelers are becoming more aware of the wide diversity of people and environments in Africa, which is unequalled in any other location in the world, from its fantastic wildlife and natural landscapes to its fascinating and cultural historical heritage. According to the 1999 World Investment Report issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, from 1996 to 1998, tourism ranked third behind telecommunications and agri-business industries that received considerable foreign direct investments in Africa. Consequently, tourism organizations, tour operators, governments, hotel groups, airlines and other service-related providers in Africa are now joining forces to ensure that Africa is put firmly on the map as one of the world's premiere travel and tourism destinations.
OPPORTUNITIES. According to statistics released by the World Travel and Tourism Organization (WTTC), Africa was the part of the world where the travel and tourism industry made the most progress in the 1990s, with international arrivals rising by 7.5%. During that decade, the number of tourists choosing to visit Africa has almost doubled, rising from 16 million to 31 million. During this same period there has been a fifty- percent increase, with a total number of 625 million tourists worldwide in 1998, according to the WTTC. However, despite this success, Africa only accounts for less than 5% of world tourism, with its share, revenue-wise, at only 2% (an estimated $12.4 billion in 1998) out of the annual sales of close to $4 trillion. Despite an encouraging increase in the number of visitors to countries such as Egypt, Kenya, Zambia, Mauritius and Morocco, the continent's 2% average growth falls short of the world's 7.5% and is well below East Asia's of 14% and Europe's 6.2%.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council's (WTTC) "1999 Travel and Tourism" report, tourism is the world's largest civilian industry and accounts for nearly fourteen percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Prior to the terrorism attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the travel and tourism industry had also enjoyed consistent growth over the past three decades. It employed more than 200 million people worldwide with twelve percent of the global workforce and was the leading generator of tax revenues with over $600 billion generated annually in both direct and indirect sales. Each year tourism investments attract approximately $700 billion of new capital, representing twelve percent of the worldwide capital investment. The travel and tourism industry is also an important source of foreign exchange for many developing countries. International tourism expenditures currently account for fourteen percent of the total world exports and over twenty-five percent of the world's trade in services. According to the WTTC, continued growth of tourism is forecast through 2010 at an annual rate of three to five percent.
Moreover, it is a little known fact that the travel and tourism industry is the only major sector in international trade and services in which developing countries recorded surpluses. The WTTO currently ranks the African Continent as one of the fastest growing destinations for international tourists. According to the WTTC many African governments support the growth of both domestic and international tourism due to the sector's immense potential for job creation, tax revenue generation, economic diversification, and foreign exchange earnings. Resort tourism and gaming is often welcomed for its ability to alleviate regional disparities of income and employment. City hotels and restaurants are also needed in emerging and transitional economies to attract international investors and business travelers. Consequently, many African tourism ministries are working with a number of international organizations and governments to develop their tourism research master plans.
EXPECTATIONS. Based on the potential opportunities in the travel and tourism industry of Africa, how will interested entrepreneurs benefit and what are their expectations?
First and foremost, with the unprecedented passage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), entrepreneurs have a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of the positive trends of America's commitment to assist African countries in order to continue to successfully graduate into the emerging global marketplace by generating economic opportunities through expanded trade and investment initiatives. AGOA will hopefully remove barriers to free trade and economic opportunity for American entrepreneurs who want to work with them. Africa represents a very promising economic region of the world in which the savvy businessperson can have a strategic marketing advantage. Specifically, this historic piece of legislation should be targeted by the travel and tourism industry with direct involvement and participation by more Americans and Africans alike.
Secondly, in order to be able to benefit from this unique situation, an entrepreneur must be willing to investigate the multitude of investment possibilities by becoming more educated about the potential types of tourism attractions on the African Continent and then actually doing the research to determine the specific areas in which they should consider investing their money. According to industry experts, there are three major areas of tourism trends that will be greatly marketed in the future for Africa - adventure travel, Eco-tourism and cultural heritage tours.
According to the WTTC, the fastest growing trend in tourism in the world is adventure travel, although this description can cover a wide variety of interests. The African Continent possess some of the greatest deserts, beaches, tropical rainforest, and mountain ranges in the world and beckons the adventure tourist to come visit, explore and enjoy. Most adventure tourism activities are, however, not for the timid and are specifically aimed at those tourist who wish to break away from stereotypical vacations. Classic examples of this range from a climbing expedition of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is a popular trek for serious visitors to Tanzania to the more recent airborne adventure of hot air ballooning over and/or bungee jumping from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe!
With regard to the nature lover, there are also the awesome natural environments with the widest range of animals and plant life found on the planet including many unspoiled Eco-systems yet to be discovered. One could argue that there are almost too many possibilities for one to experience in a complete lifetime. In all parts of the world, the greatest threat to the environment and the complex ecology of the creatures that live there are the activities of humankind itself. With this in mind and the careful and unique nature of many of Africa's wilderness areas, many joint efforts have been made to preserve these natural wonders and impart as little as possible negative impact on the environment. This commitment goes beyond wildlife conservation and considers the needs of the national economies, the local inhabitants and the delicate natural environments of major areas within the African Continent.
Eco-Tourism seeks to support this delicate balance by working responsibly with African ministries of tourism, tour operators and community-based initiatives that direct activities towards a constructive use of Eco-tourism and wilderness areas. Classic examples of this range from the wildlife conservation programs of the world famous Serengeti in East Africa, to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, to the isolated and unique Eco-system of Madagascar.
But the real story of the African Continent is that of its many people, stretching far back into a past that is only preserved in the oral tradition of myths and legends. Surprisingly Africa is no longer referred to as the "Dark Continent" and is now recognized as the birthplace of mankind. It is a land where great empires and civilizations rose and fell and even greater injustices were visited upon her people through the infamous slave trade of both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Africa is a land full of tremendous natural and human resources, which for many centuries were fought over by the powers of Europe seeking to obtain access and control of these vast riches, often at a terrible cost to the indigenous peoples. Today, Africa is made up of fifty-three sovereign nations, but within these modern national boundaries are thousands of multi-ethnic cultures that have played a significant part in the long and storied history of the continent.
Cultural tourism is a term, which embraces any excursion that focuses on the activities of man, rather than nature, and attempts to give the tourist an understanding of the unique traditions and lifestyles of the local people. Unquestionably, Africa is without a doubt a land of great historical interest as well as a place where different stages of the history of mankind can be seen - sometimes in still existing cultures. Many of these cultural sites are equipped with facilities and organized tours so that the interested visitor can have a first-hand experience of the location and cultural diversity of the area, often helping to support the welfare of the local people and the preservation of the significant cultural and historical sites nearby where they live. In addition, local arts and crafts represent a rapidly expanding area of the cultural tourism industry that create small businesses and jobs for many Africans as well as increases export market potential of many African nations. Classic examples of this range from the various cultural and historical sites of Nigeria to the timeless land of the Masai in Tanzania and Kenya.
REALITIES. To the vast majority of Americans, Africa's problems over the past fifty years have manifested themselves in the form of ongoing military, political and economic turmoil that has had far reaching repercussions for Africa and its people. This unfortunate propaganda of a continent full of waste, fraud and abuse has adversely affected potential interest in travel and tourism-related trade and investment opportunities in Africa by American businesses. This factor, when coupled with the recent threat of global terrorism has significantly impeded much of the progress that has been achieved over the past decade. These perceptions, whether real or imaginary, have dealt a crippling blow to the travel and tourism industry of not just Africa but around the world. As a result, many airlines are currently facing serious financial difficulty due to the fear of air travel because of safety and security concerns. Likewise, the hotel and hospitality industry is being severely affected because people are not venturing far from home and are definitely putting off overseas travel for the foreseeable future.
The travel and tourism industry attributes its current decrease in activity to the weakened global economy and post September 11th 2001 fears. In the United States, the domestic airlines are facing tremendous losses this year expected to exceed $5 billion industry-wide and have been forced to reduce services and cut back on expansion programs. The airline industry's future will definitely determine the fate of the hotel, restaurant and related business industries. While the travel and tourism industry is in a crisis mode today, as the global terrorism threat becomes more manageable and the global economy gains new life, most industry leaders predict a return to better times. Consequently, my recommendation for those in the travel and tourism industry of Africa is to focus on building client loyalty and enhancing your services and products. Things will get better and people will want to visit Africa for business and for pleasure.
Now more than ever before, the travel and tourism industry of Africa offers unlimited potential for economic growth and opportunity with those African nations that choose to market their resources to the American traveler. It also presents great investment opportunities for many savvy American investors who can take advantage of this trade bill with Africa that will hopefully remove barriers to free trade and economic opportunity for Africans working hard to catch up to the global economy and for American entrepreneurs who want to work with them. The future of travel and tourism-related trade and investment opportunities in Africa is brighter as a result of Africa's determination to build future prosperity in free markets, coupled with its readiness to engage in a new spirit of mutual respect, support and cooperation with American businesses. In conclusion, the power of tourism to bridge both the cultural and economic gap between Africans and Americans in my opinion is where entrepreneurs can have the most impact.
In summary, Africa is truly an immense, diverse and endlessly fascinating continent and the travel and tourism industry of Africa offers unlimited potential for economic growth and opportunity. Given the great diversity of tourism attractions and the commitment of progressive investment policies being channeled in this lucrative industry by many African nations, the future of investment opportunities in the travel and tourism industry looks very promising. While there are many challenges ahead, those who invest early and wisely will ultimately reap the benefits for themselves and Africa as a whole.
About the author: Helen C. Broadus is the President of Venue International Professionals, Inc. (VIP) - a full-service travel, tourism and trade-related consulting firm based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area that specializes in tourism to the Continent of Africa. She is the Executive Secretary of the International Board of Directors of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) and a former president of the ATA's Mid-Atlantic Region. In 1997, she earned the coveted Founder's Award from the ATA for her outstanding contributions towards the continued promotion of travel and tourism opportunities to the Continent of Africa. In 1999, she earned the prestigious Intercontinental Hotel Group's Award for significant contributions to the promotion of travel and tourism opportunities to West Africa. She is also a regular contributing writer to the Africa Travel Association's Website, Africa Travel Magazine and Black Meetings and Tourism Magazine. For more information about her company, please write her an email at email@example.com and visit her company's Website at www.venuetravel.com.