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» 13.10.2010 - Africa most desired among young travellers
» 05.10.2010 - African destinations conquer European market
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Travel - Leisure | Economy - Development

Weak euro threatens Africa's tourism industry

Hilton Hotel in Egypt's Red Sea resort Sharm el Sheikh

© Hilton/afrol News
afrol News, 20 May
- The weak euro and pound make travels to Africa more expensive for Europeans. But the few African countries able to offer all-inclusive packages, like Egypt, tend to become the winners of the 2010 season.

Europe is the main market for almost every African tourist destination. Trends on the northern continent thus strongly influence the annual development of this increasingly important industry in Africa.

The trends for the northern summer season are already quite clear. In the euro zone, including main markets Germany and France, economic modesty is high on the agenda. And with the euro steadily losing value, euro consumers fear for their vacations abroad.

The reaction to this situation is already measured by European travel agencies and tour operators. Many chose to spend their vacations in their home country. Most of those choosing to go abroad however seek all-inclusive packages. These packages make travel costs calculable far in advance, and any further euro devaluation will not influence the holiday budget.

In Germany, Europe's greatest tourist market, the influential German Travel Association (DRV) has registered a 4 percent growth in bookings this year, compared to the poor 2009 season. Bookings are almost reaching the level of 2008, before the global financial crisis.

According to DRV President Klaus Laepple, there is "a growing demand for all-inclusive summer holiday deals within Germany." Turkey and Egypt continue to be increasingly popular trendy destinations, DRV found. Especially Egypt, with its large offer of all-inclusive packages, tends to be the market winner on 2010, new statistics show.

But also other intercontinental destinations are strongly growing on the German market. This includes Kenya and especially Mauritius, according to the DRV. With the increasingly tense situation in top tropical destination Thailand, popular African destinations could see even stronger growth, other German travel market analysts hold.

But for more individual travels and non-inclusive packages to African destinations, the weak euro is already having a negative impact. Especially Southern Africa, where many countries bind their currency to the strong South African rand, is seeing lower booking numbers than expected. For euro and pound consumers, Southern Africa has become an expensive destination, travel agents note.

The UK market, also among the greatest in Europe, confirms the trend. Even the numerous British soccer fans are failing to book travels to South Africa "due to the high costs," according to the English Football Supporters Federation. FIFA had originally expected 450,000 fans to travel to South Africa, but has already downgraded its latest estimate to 350,000 fans. Many newly built hotel rooms in South Africa will stand empty during the World Cup.

With the pound sterling at an almost historic low and with announced budget cuts in Britain, travel agents have registered a growth in inland travels this year. International travels still show a downwards trend this year and a recovery is not in sight. And the Britons going abroad also prefer calculable all-inclusive packages, including cruises. Trips to Africa however are decreasing less than other destinations.

Back in the euro zone, the French remain among the most important travellers to Africa. Indeed, last year 12.5 percent of French tourists travelling abroad went to North Africa, with Morocco being a leading destination, and 5.8 percent went to sub-Saharan Africa, mostly former French colonies.

The French are expected to maintain or increase their level of travels to Africa this year. Many typical destinations for French tourists in North Africa and the Indian Ocean offer all-inclusive packages, while most ex-colonies on the continent use the franc CFA currency, which is tied to the euro.

Other markets in the euro zone experience greater trouble. Spain and Portugal, countries that recently recorded the highest growth rates in travels to Africa, are in a deep recession, which strongly is reducing household abilities to travel abroad.

But outside the euro and pound zones, some markets are experiencing better times. In Switzerland, Norway and Sweden, currencies have strengthened against the euro and some African currencies, making travelling cheaper and more attractive. Travel agents here are registering growth, with North Africa and in particular Egypt crystallising as a winner for the 2010 season.

The trends registered by European travel agents are somewhat in line with earlier forecasts by the UN's World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), which had forecast a growth in international tourist arrivals of between 3 and 4 percent in 2010. Growth in Africa was forecast to be somewhat higher than the global average.

But growth seems to concentrate on fewer destinations than UNTWO had forecast, and several African nations could therefore see a decline in arrivals in the 2010 season.

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