The latest data available from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) show an increase in global travel by 5 percent. But one continent is lagging behind the global average this year.
The Americas recorded the strongest growth with 6 percent with Europe and the Pacific’s growth standing at 5 percent. In terms of sub regions, Northern Europe and South Asia with 8 percent each outpaced all the other regions of the globe. However, Africa’s international tourist numbers grew well under average by only 3% as the recovery consolidated in North Africa with Egypt returning to stability (+4%).
The current Ebola outbreak appears to affect tourism to the region, and in particular West Africa has taken a hit in arrival numbers due to misperceptions about the transmission of the virus. Said Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO: “The main focus at the moment is on taking and supporting action to contain the virus. But we must also ensure that misperceptions do not unnecessarily harm the African economy, in particular its travel and tourism sector, which is a central activity in many countries. We would like to stress that the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend any ban on international travel. Putting a halt on flights or imposing unnecessary travel restrictions will not help contain the virus. On the contrary, these measures will surely dampen the economy of the region, especially its travel and tourism sector, and jeopardize millions of livelihoods.”
In terms of source markets, data for the first half of 2014 shows a consolidation of the rebound in spending in travel abroad registered in 2013 in some advanced economies. Expenditure out of the Italian and Australian markets was up 8% and 7%, respectively, while the US market was up by 5%. Data for France and Canada indicates a 3% increase.
Demand generated by emerging markets also continues to be strong, though decelerating as compared to 2013. Chinese outbound expenditure was up 16% in the first half of the year as compared to 26% in the whole of 2013, while expenditure out of the Russian Federation was up by 4% as compared to 25% last year with the downward trend likely to continue for Russia due to the increase in economic sanctions.
Africa is now challenged to devise ways and means to return to the impressive, above average growth rates in tourism arrivals similar to the past few years, or else risk to slide back again as the entire continent only commands a small percentage of global arrivals and every fraction of a percent under global average will compound this further.