Issue 37
Africa Open for Tourism
The untapped potential of Chinese tourism to Africa is good news for the continent
Edited by Jo Kromberg  ·  2017-06-05  ·   Source:

The capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, recently hosted the 59th Meeting of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Commission for Africa. Held in April, the Commission included a high-level meeting on Chinese outbound tourism to Africa, where regional representatives debated the potential that the sector brings to the continent.

Attended by 21 tourism ministers from the African continent, the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa has become the best platform to discuss tourism trends in the continent and the potential that Chinese tourism can induce at regional level. The attendees also included Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment of Jamaica and Wei Hongtao, Vice Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration.

The 59th meeting of the Commission was complemented by a key interactive session on the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development which is being celebrated worldwide through 2017.

"We all come out of Africa, and went on to inhabit the world, making Africa the first source market in history. Africa is the future and Ethiopia is the soul and heart of Africa" said UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai, opening the event. UNWTO Secretary General received a Recognition Award from Muktar Kedir, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of good governance and reform of Ethiopia to highlight his legacy to promote tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability.

According to, tourism figures from China spiked sharply in 2016. Adventure-seeking Chinese tourists are becoming more interested in Africa for holiday destination. The number of visitors who went to Africa in 2016 was mainly due to looser visa restrictions and new direct flights between China and Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa, among other destinations. In South Africa alone, Chinese arrivals were up 93 percent in 2016, albeit from a very low base. Increasingly Chinese tourists are looking for holiday destinations beyond Europe and America with exotic cultures, wildlife and services - Africa has all this and more.

Last year, 121 million Chinese traveled overseas, more than any other country in the world and it's forecasted to grow to 150 million in the next few years. The growth rate since 2010 has been 18 to 20 percent.

During his speech, Kedir described his country "as a unique land where the earliest ancestors of human beings first walks upright, we honestly expect Ethiopia to be one of the prime choices of tourists in the near future that makes them feel safe and enjoy their stay in this yet unexplored land." The Commission served to motivate African Member States to undersign the African Charter on Sustainable and Responsible Tourism as well as supporting the African Caravan on Sustainable and Responsible Tourism led by Morocco.

China has become a major investor in the African continent, contributing to infrastructure development and reshaping the economic landscape, and is the world´s largest outbound market since 2012 after recording double digit growth in expenditure every year since 2004. The meeting witnessed a high level of participation not only from African governments but also private sector stakeholders who discussed the dynamics of the Chinese outbound market together with ways to provide guidance for policies and strategies to African member states, Chinese stakeholders and African businesses.

The event was a combination of keynote presentations from UNWTO, IVY Alliance Tourism Consulting, AVIAREPS and International Civil Aviation Organization, interactive panels and roundtable discussions.

The Commission was informed that the 60th CAF will be hosted in Chengdu China within the framework of the 22nd Session of the General Assembly, to be held in September 2017. In addition, members of the Commission unanimously welcomed Nigeria´s expression of interest to host the 61st CAF to be held in 2018.

Useful links:

Programme of the 59th UNWTO Commission for Africa


UNWTO Communications & Publications Program

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