- As the trends for international tourism in 2005 were presented, it became clear that sub-Saharan Africa was last year's winner. In all of Africa, the tourism industry grew by an estimated 10 percent, significantly more than the global average of 5.5 percent. Especially Mozambique and Kenya turned out the fastest growing tourism destinations in 2005.
The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) recently presented its global statistics for 2005. Last year, international tourism sustained the sharp upturn that began in 2004 in spite of the various tragic events it had to contend. The number of international tourist arrivals recorded worldwide grew by 5.5 percent and exceeded 800 million for the first time ever.
"Africa led the way in 2005, with growth estimated at 10 percent," the Madrid-based organisation said. Tourism, which is one of the world's leading and most fast developing industries, is thus rapidly making an economic impact also in Africa. Last year, an estimated 36.7 million tourists visited Africa, up from 33.3 million in 2004.
Africa however remains a very minor tourism region. The world tourism market is totally dominated by Europe as the top destination. Some 443 million tourists visited a European country last year, meaning that Europe still attracts more than half of the total market. Europe however only recorded relatively modest growth of 4 percent last year, and growth here has been significantly slower than in Africa for many years.
Of the two sub-regions recorded by WTO - North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa - the latter had the strongest growth. Tourist visits to sub-Saharan Africa increased by 13 percent during 2005 and the total number of international tourist arrivals in that region is estimated at 23.1 million (up from 20.5 million in 2004).
The massive growth in the region seems to have been focused on countries bordering the Indian Ocean. The highest single growth rate in Africa recorded by WTO is from the relatively new tourist destination Mozambique at 37 percent. Another "particularly remarkable result" was noted for Kenya, which went up 26 percent "following an already buoyant 2004."
Other sub-Saharan countries noting growth above average principally included South Africa, where international tourist arrivals had increased by 11 percent during 2005. Also the two famous Indian Ocean island tourist destinations of Seychelles (up 7 percent) and Mauritius (up 6 percent) had noted a decent growth, WTO noted. For Seychelles and Mauritius, this was an improvement on the rather disappointing growth in 2004.
North Africa had noted a growth rate more in line with the world average. The "moderate pace" of growth was illustrated by Tunisia, recording an increase of 8 percent between January and November, and Morocco of 5 percent for the full year. Egypt, which WTO has placed in the Middle East region, noted a growth of international tourist arrivals by 6 percent. North Africa is as such in line with the Middle East, where a very strong performance over the past couple of years has turned to "a more moderate phase of growth."
The World Tourism Organisation is rather optimistic in its predictions for the current year. It estimates that "the current pattern of gradually slowing growth" will continue in 2006. On a global scale, growth was projected to be around one percentage point lower than in 2005.
Regarding risks for the further development of the tourism industry, WTO regards that "terrorism will continue to be present." Nevertheless, "experience shows that its impact lately has been rather limited and short-lived." The organisation sees a greater threat from the further spread of avian flu, especially if the virus starts transmitting between humans. That could provoke a sudden slow-down in world tourism.
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