Africa yet to exploit booming travel market in Asia– WTTC

Posted: October 14, 2013 in travel & tourism

wttcAfrica is missing out on foreign direct investment from Asia, in particular China into the continent and Africa is falling behind in exploiting the boom in travel demand from the fastest-growing outbound travel market in the world, World Travel & Tourism Council Chief Executive Officer, Mr. David Scowsill said, Tuesday.

“Outside of the Nairobi and Johannesburg hubs, Africa doesn’t really have the infrastructure to support the growth that is coming their way,” Scowsill said in an interview on the sidelines of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) regional conference in Seoul, South Korea.

Africa needed “at least three other airports” that could be used as hubs to support the growth in aviation on the continent and to stimulate the development of tourism. The existing airports would also have to expand to keep pace with demand, Scowsill said.

“It is really unbelievable that you still have to fly through Europe in many instances to be able to access the destinations in Asia, that you can’t fly directly because the connectivity isn’t there,” he said.

“That is one of the things that I tell governments (in Africa) when I meet with them: look at all the projections (for growth) and how it will grow and be conscious that it is coming your way,” he said.

This also required political support for liberalizing Africa’s aviation regulations to allow for greater access and improve the continent’s connectivity.

Prof Ian Goldin, the director of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, warned that governments tended to lag in response to market demands, and to put inappropriate regulation in place such as taxes which could limit potential social benefits.

Goldin said tourism offered “massive potential to create jobs”, particularly for women and unskilled people.

One of the emerging factors that the industry would have to grasp was the rapid growth of the Asian travel market. Almost a third of all tourists in the world would be from Asia by 2023, which would require substantial investment in supporting infrastructure as well as regulation.

Investment in travel and tourism would grow at 5.3 per cent a year for the next 10 years, according to the WTTC, reaching $1.34-trillion by 2023, the year China will overtake the US as the world’s largest travel and tourism economy.

In order to reap the economic windfall that tourism presented, Goldin said “educating governments is key” to ensure they provide appropriate support to enable tourism to flourish.

The reorientation of the world’s economy back to Asia, after a hiatus of 300 years -and to China in particular -was a “historic shift”, Scowsill told delegates in a speech at the conference.

“This phenomenal growth will be driven by increasing wealth among Asia’s middle classes, particularly in China. The United Nations describe it as a historic shift, the likes of which has not been seen for 150 years. Asia’s middle class is forecast to triple to 1.7-billion by 2020,” Scowsill said.

The WTTC forecasts travel and tourism will grow 3 per cent this year and says the industry’s total economic contribution will reach $6.8-trillion, the equivalent of 9 per cent of global GDP.

Globally the sector, which is responsible for about one in 11 jobs worldwide, is forecast to grow at 4.4% a year over the next 10 years while Asia’s growth is expected to be about 6 per cent a year until 2023, according to the WTTC.

Scowsill said it was “no accident” the WTTC’s annual regional conference was being hosted in Korea. “Of the 70-million new jobs travel and tourism will stimulate globally by 2023, two-thirds – some 47-million -will be in Asia,” he said.

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