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The United Nations designated the year 2017 as the International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development due to tourism’s capacity to enhance economic growth through job creations, attraction of investment, fostering entrepreneurship, preservation of ecosystem and biodiversity, protection of cultural heritage and promotion of empowerment of local communities. Even at the international and national levels, policy makers have come to recognise the potential of tourism and this knowledge is reflecting on the laws and policies being formulated.
Beyond just enhancing inclusive growth and economic development, tourism can complement development strategies aimed at fostering economic diversification and structural transformation within the right policy context. Tourism has the potential to significantly contribute to a nation’s GDP, employment and export earnings. The sector is fairly job-rich, employing comparatively high share of women and youth. On a global scale, women make up between 60 and 70 per cent of the tourism labour force, and half of its workers are aged 25 or younger. It thus has the potential to foster more inclusive growth (United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD), 2017).
Also, considering that globally most international travel takes place within a traveller’s own region and that, with a rising African middle class, if continental disposable incomes increase, there is a greater scope for boosting continental and intra-regional travel in Africa. Tourism helps to generate and spread incomes and has strong spillover effects for poverty reduction through stronger linkages. These stronger linkages propel a multiplier effect that can generate economic benefits at the national level; employment opportunities and poverty reduction at the local level. Sadly in many countries, tourism linkages remain weak and underexploited. As a result, the foreign investors, international tour operators and foreign airline companies are benefiting mostly from the value added of the sector while very limited benefits are available to the destination country and very little flow to the poor (UNCTAD, 2017).
Promotion of peace, justice and strong institutions are necessary in achieving any economic development or goals. Most African nations, however, face tough challenges and constraints in leveraging the benefits of tourism services in trade and economic development. To this end, Jumia Travel, Nigeria’s leading online travel agency examines some 4 major challenges preventing the continent from unlocking the potentials of tourism.
If linkages between tourism and other productive sectors are enhanced, tourism can then promote economic diversification and structural transformation. Unlocking the potential of intersectoral linkages will contribute to structural transformation, aligning of cross-sectoral issues, and included into policy frameworks at the national, regional and local levels.
Enhancing the capacity of tourism to foster more inclusive growth
Critical to playing an important role in the global fight to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development goals is tourism. No doubt, it will generate economic benefits and boost productive capacities. Beyond these, tourism can foster inclusion by creating employment opportunities among vulnerable groups such as the poor, women, and youth.
Tapping the potential of intra-regional tourism through deepening regional integration
Because of the increase in the continental and intra-regional tourism in Africa and the opportunities it offers for economic and export diversification, African countries are bound to benefit if they made significant progress with the free movement of persons, currency convertibility and liberalizing air transport services. This would enhance greater access to tourism destinations and boost the competitiveness of destinations. Regional economic communities and countries therefore need to comprehensively plan for intra-regional and continental tourism.
Harnessing peace and stability for tourism
The development of tourism can foster peace; so is peace essential for tourism. African countries with tourism potential should therefore implement policies that can strengthen the sector. There’s a bi-directional causal relationship between peace and tourism and the effect of peace on tourism is much greater in magnitude than the impact of tourism on peace.