South African President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday that immense potentials remain to be tapped to further grow the tourism sector in Africa.
African countries should open their beautiful continent to further growth in tourism, Zuma said in his opening address at Africa's Travel Indaba (conference) 2017, taking place in Durban, with the participation of hundreds of representatives from all over Africa.
"Working together as Africans with our global partners, we can open our beautiful continent to further growth in tourism. We are determined to move Africa forward in this business," Zuma said.
In this era of the fourth industrial revolution which may threaten traditional jobs, tourism's labour absorption capacity remains a greater weapon against unemployment, said Zuma.
"It therefore serves us well to look at tourism as a diversification opportunity for the continent's economy because traditional sectors are experiencing challenges.
"Whilst we pursue the increase in global Africa inbound travel market share, we also encourage and promote travel within Africa. Africans must explore their continent as well," Zuma stressed.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, tourism around the world recorded its seventh straight year of sustained growth since the global financial crisis last year.
More than a billion people now travel around the world every year, and world international tourist arrivals grew by four percent on average. Africa enjoyed an eight percent increase in international tourist arrivals to reach 58 million arrivals.
This means that Africa is growing at twice the rate of the global average.
"It is indeed most encouraging that more and more world travellers are discovering our continent. It means they see its value as an exceptional destination for holidays and business events," Zuma said.
But he pointed out that these arrivals to the continent represent only five percent of the one billion global tourists.
This indicates the immense potential for further growth in the continent's tourism sector, said Zuma.
Zuma said his country has benefited from tourism.
The total contribution of tourism to South Africa's economy in 2015 was about 375 billion rand (about $38.8 billion), according to figures cited by Zuma.
Tourism now supports over 1.5 million jobs in total in South Africa and the country wants tourism to support over 2.2 million jobs by 2026.
"We are working hard to achieve further growth. Our aim is to make South Africa one of the top 20 tourism destinations in the world," he said.
South Africa is trying to attract five million more international arrivals and domestic tourists within the next five years, Zuma said.
More than 10 million international tourists arrived in South Africa last year, 13 percent more than in 2015, according to Statistics South Africa.
This is well over the global average growth rate for the period.
(Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2017)