Tourism is regarded as the act of moving temporarily to a new environment, for leisure, business, and other purposes. It includes all mechanisms -both material and non-material- put in place to ensure comfort and ease for those involved.
Tourism today is a multibillion-dollar global industry. It represents 10% of the world’s GDP and employs 1 out of every 10 people in the world. Also, it has become one of the fastest growing and most important economic sectors globally.
Countries around the world are embracing the ‘tourism revolution’. A revolution that has seen tourist around the world grow from a mere 25million in 1950 to nearly 1.2billion in 2015.
Governments are making massive investments in developing their tourism sector. Which has the potential of raking in millions of dollars in returns annually. Especially as it has been estimated that tourism will continue to grow at an average of 3.3% until 2030.
Despite the enormous opportunities the tourism industry offers, it seems African countries have failed to effectively tap into this new gold mine.
Africa is blessed with some of the most aesthetically valued landscapes in the world. Not to mention its rich wide life and overwhelming eco-diversity that can be matched only by a few places on earth. Add the very rich cultural heritage of its people and you already have an unbeatable tourist destination.
However, the continent is held back by enormous challenges that have stifled its tourism potentials.
Though embarking on tours and travels might be out of reach for an average African. Which is due to the socioeconomic atmosphere on the continent. Nonetheless, tourism offers a huge opportunity for Africans especially those on the lower end of the socioeconomic class. The poor.
Tourism can help boost local economies, by providing markets for locally produced goods and services. In the process, employment is created for thousands of people, which will reduce poverty in the society. This includes retail and service provision activities such as accommodation, transportation, tour guides, restaurant and cafes among others.
It also brings development and transformation to areas with tourist attractions which are usually rural in nature. This is achieved through the provision of infrastructural and social facilities in these locations, from which the local population also benefit. These include construction of roads, electricity, water supply, healthcare facilities and even building of schools for the locals.
Nationally, tourism creates an avenue for the flow of foreign currency into the country. This serves as a major source of income. Governments can then channel this income into national development projects to further reduce poverty.
Far beyond its ability to reduce poverty, tourism also promotes the idea of ecosystem conservation and environmental protection in general. The contact people have with different cultures helps foster universal love, understanding and also the exchange of ideas. This coupled with many other benefits makes tourism a potential tool for economic growth in Africa.
However, these benefits can only be reaped with the proper measures and policies (pdf). This includes massive investment in the tourism potentials of African countries. If everything is in place, who knows, Africa might just be the next major global tourist destination.