World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has recently published the 2014 statistics on international tourism. These are summarised on the UNWTO Tourism Highlights (2015 edition) publication. Globally tourism has been growing almost uninterrupted since the 1950’s. Europe accounts still about half of all international tourist arrivals, but emerging regions, especially Asia-Pacific but also Middle East and Africa have seen stronger growth in the last 30 years. Asia-Pacific region has now overtaken the Americas as the second most popular region. Despite the growth since 1980’s, Africa remains a minor player in world tourism, with 2014 being a year of a slow growth, not least due to Ebola outbreak.
With just 5% of global international tourist arrivals, Africa remains a fringe destination compared to other regions. It is worth noting that UNWTO regions differ from geographic continents, e.g the Africa region does not include Egypt and Libya which are part of the Middle East Region. The growth of tourist arrivals in Africa was just 2% in 2014, compared to 5% the year before. Probably the main reason for the slowdown is the Ebola outbreak which hurt tourism all over the continent, despite Ebola-hit countries not being major destinations. Persistent insecurity problems are also keeping masses away even from the continent.
When it comes to tourism receipts (revenues), Africa trails other regions even more, having a share of just 3%. Moreover, the receipts have been growing in slower manner than tourist arrivals in recent years. Asia-Pacific region proves a very different story, with amount of receipts growing remarkably fast this decade. Most countries in that region are mostly known as cheap destinations (though it contains also expensive countries like Australia and Japan), so does this reflect these countries becoming more expensive in recent years? On the other hand African countries tend to be expensive destination for tourist, yet it gets less revenue per tourist than other regions. This is also the case with relatively expensive Europe region. Maybe people spend more money in cheaper destinations, taking the advantage of lower prices. And where they feel prices are too high, wallets are kept tightly closed. Regional tourism may provide another explanation, growing middle and upper classes in Asia-Pacific region are able to spend more when travelling. Regional tourism is probably also growing in Africa, but these visitors are likely to travel on low budget.