Published On: Sat, Oct 4th, 2014

Not only Ebola, Africa needs positive perception of its tourism

_73945372_pa5mr8jfOutbreak of Ebola epidemic in Africa was not the only drawback which
greatly affected the continent’s tourism with, but negative perception
of the continent had blacked its tourist glories.

It is estimated that some African destinations, mostly sub-Saharan
Africa which hold the continent’s tourist hotspots have recorded a 25
percent cancellations from bookings made in United States, Europe and
South East Asia.

The Southern, Central and Eastern African safari destinations had
reported some cases of tourist cancellations submitted by package tour
operators and a section of airlines.

But, not only Ebola disease which had recently painted a black spot on
the African tourist map, also the US and European public media
outlets, coupled with poor marketing budgets, had all made Africa a
continent of no-choice to potential global tourists.

Giving his overview of the global tourist trend and the position of
this continent on global tourism map, Tanzanian president Mr. Jakaya
Kikwete said Africa lags behind in both attracting international
tourists and in revenue earnings despite having many tourist
attractive spots for both leisure and adventure.

He told delegates attending Tanzania’s first-ever tourism exhibition,
the Swahili International Tourism expo (SITES) that Africa received
about 56 million international tourists which accounts for only five
percent of the world tourist share.

In terms of international receipt in 2013, Africa gained only 34
billion US dollars tourists accounting for only three percent of total
income from global tourism, less than Middle East which recorded a
five percent of international tourist arrivals and four percent of
income earned.

The Tanzanian president further said Asia received 23 percent of
tourists and gained 31 percent of the global tourist share, while
Europe hit the jackpot of 52 percent of tourist arrivals and 42
percent of income.

He attributed the poor growth and inequality of African tourism as
lack of tourist infrastructure, sound marketing campaigns and best
investments in tourist industry.
But, negative perception of the African continent through the leading
global public media outlets, had greatly affected the African tourism,
he said.

“Good stories about progress of the continent find no headlines.
Indeed, Africa has its positive sides and extraordinary attractions
for leisure, adventure and relaxation”, Mr. Kikwete told the SITES
event delegates.

“This shortcoming had cost Africa dearly. It is an anomaly that needs
correction”, he added.

“The story about Africa must be told and misinterpretation be
corrected. Perception that Africa is a country other than a continent
must not be left to exist. It must be known that Africa is a big
continent of 54 countries not provinces”, Mr. Kikwete noted.

“Singling out a problem in one country or part of Africa and
generalizing it as a situation affecting the whole continent is
erroneous and unfair”, the Tanzanian president added.

On the other hand, he told the SITES event participants that African
tourist stakeholders and policy makers should take responsibility to
tell stories and be proactive in telling own stories louder than
looking for tourists and foreign media outlets to take the role.

He further expressed his optimism to see Africa gaining tourist
opportunities come the year 2030 through concerted efforts currently
being undertaken by African government on development of tourism
infrastructure.

“Certainly, African governments will have to do better in addressing
bottlenecks related to tourism infrastructure and services including
hotels, air travel, security and safety of tourists”, he said.

Much more as well, Mr. Kikwete said, there is a great need to improve
perception of the African continent and embark on designing and
formatting tourism exhibitions like SITES event which aimed at
branding and promotional initiatives for the African tourism.

“We must do more to reach our tourists to visit Africa and Tanzania.
While it is incumbent upon us African to do so, it is fair to ask tour
operators and other players gathered here to use their good offices
and influence to promote African tourism”, said the President.

On Tanzania’s tourism trend, he told the much attended SITES event
delegates that this African destination had recorded an increase in
the number of international tourists by 1.7 percent last year made up
of 1.1 million tourists against the 1.07 arrivals the previous year.

There was as well, a recorded increase by 8.2 percent of tourist gains
of US dollars 1.8 billion against the US dollars 1.7 billion recorded
the previous year.

Accordingly, Tanzania gained US dollars 2.0 billion by end of June
this year through an increase of 12.3 percent annual tourism growth an
indication that tourism is Tanzania’s second leading foreign exchange
earner after gold.

Held for the first time in Tanzania, the ongoing SITES event had
attracted 160 exhibitors from 13 African and world countries, 25
hosted buyer tour operators and several guest visitors from United
States, United Kingdom and China.