Tourism is vital: a call to policy-makers.

Position:THIS MONTH'S PRIZE LETTER - Letter to the editor

I work within the tourism sector and I am an avid reader of your magazine, but I am surprised at how sporadic your coverage of the African tourism industry has become. While you dedicate regular pages to the energy sector, discuss financial trends with your View from the City column, and usually summarise the World Tourism Organisation's annual report each year, tourism seems to receive relatively little attention.

Tourism is a vital industry for many African countries. If you look at the figures and put them into the context of the global economy, it is clear that it is a hugely significant economic sector. It is also clear that Africa cannot afford not to receive its fair share of the benefits of what is the world's fastest growing industry.

In 2004, 763m tourists travelled beyond their home country. Together, they spent $623bn on souvenirs, hotels, restaurant meals, museum tickets and the like. The World Trade Organisation reports that in the same year the world's 6.5bn people produced nearly $8.9 trillion worth of merchandise exports. It follows that for every $14.30 earned in exported goods, a dollar was spent on international tourism. By way of comparison, the $623bn in tourism receipts was a bit less than the $780bn in world agricultural exports for 2004; about two-thirds of the $990bn in energy exports; more than twice the value of the world's steel trade; 40% more than the world's $450bn textiles and clothing trade and 20 times the $30bn value of arms exports.

By region, the Europeans are the world's most enthusiastic tourists. With six weeks' worth of holidays a year, they account for over half the global tourist 'spend'--and Germany's $71bn in tourism spending was fully a sixth of the world's tourism total. In fact, Germany is my own country's (South Africa) most important tourist market although, per capita, the Persian Gulf tourists spend more than the Germans...

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