JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on Monday said African countries have potential to grow tourism if they improve the visa regime and integrate technology into the sector.
The sector is growing and have a potential to be the major contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP) in the continent if well managed, the WTTC Research Director Rochelle Turner told Xinhua in an interview.
According to studies, travel and tourism's contribution to GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to rise by 4.4 percent per year to 2028.
"We encourage the continent to diversify national economies, improve regional integration and ultimately, to grow travel and tourism, by continuing to liberalize visa regimes, improve connectivity and embrace technological change," said Turner.
"While visitors from countries requiring visas represent less than 10 percent of all visitors to South Africa, there is an opportunity to consider improving travel facilitation to support further sector growth in the country," she said.
Turner pointed out that one in five jobs around the world were created by travel and tourism in 2017. She said the sector is the best partner for governments to generate employment and provide livelihoods, particularly for women and youth.
Turner said freeing the airspace will improve the sector and benefit South Africa immensely and also other countries.
"Research from IATA and Intervistas have found that further air liberalization across Africa would benefit South Africa and 11 other countries on the continent. South Africa would increase passenger movements by 800,000 per year - a 52 percent increase in traffic to/from the 11 other countries. Due to the size of its aviation market, South Africa would stand to benefit more than all other countries in the study," she said.
WTTC also said digital technology is the greatest enabler to the sector's growth in various ways. Many countries in Africa continue to embrace digital technology from destination marketing to managing tourist flows at popular sites in real time via apps.
Turner said, "We encourage the utilization of digital technology to ensure efficiency and ease of travel with respect to visa applications and processes."
WTTC president and CEO, Gloria Guevara is scheduled to speak at the African leaders's forum on Thursday in Stellenbosch. The forum is expected to be attended by over 100 tourism role players from Africa and outside. Some of those who will attend include South African Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom and Botswana Environment Minister Tshekedi Khama II.
The tourism leaders will discuss travel facilitation and connectivity, human capital and development. They will also discuss community empowerment and sustainability, and the use of digital technology to enhance growth.