“Tourism is of rising importance to the African economies. Today we will focus on three barriers still hampering the full potential of tourism in the region: air connectivity, visa facilitation and hotel investment” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the event. “56 visas to visit 56 countries is not acceptable. Only with collective efforts can we successfully address such barriers and continue to promote tourism in Africa as a tool for development while stimulating new business opportunities in Spain and Portugal”, he added.
With international tourist arrivals growing by 6% in the region for the second consecutive year, Africa is one of the fastest growing tourism regions in the world. Between 2000 and 2013, international tourist arrivals more than doubled (from 26 million to 56 million). By 2030, UNWTO forecasts this figure to reach 134 million.
This Forum, which is an initiative promoted by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), FITUR and Casa Africa, tackled the question of tourism in Africa and its link with Spain and Portugal, based on the participation of a number of leading representatives from the private and public tourist sectors.
Santiago Martínez-Caro, the Head of Casa Africa pointed out that 10 of the 20 economies with the highest growth potential in the world up until 2017 are located, precisely, in Africa. And he stated that "all the indicators reflect a convergence between developing countries and the Western nations", given that out of the fifteen countries that have grown most strongly in recent years, six are African, whilst all of the nations on the Continent "will enjoy rates of growth that are significantly higher than those of the OECD countries over the next decade". Furthermore, GDP in Africa will continue to grow by a rate of up to 5.3% in 2014 and by 5.5% in 2015.
In his opinion, the African nations "will be able to compete with other tourist regions throughout the world if they effectively plan how to integrate tourism into their economies". Furthermore, "African countries should capitalise on the extensive tourism experience of Spain and the gateway it provides to the European markets". This should help to promote the economy and boost the number of jobs, both here and in Africa.
This year, a record of 134 tourism initiatives from 32 African countries and 40 Spanish and Portuguese companies gathered at INVESTOUR. A significant number of the participating projects seek to develop sustainable tourism offers in countries such as Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, Kenya and Rwanda while several other projects sought partners for the creation or renewal of the hotel infrastructure.