Africa's tourism industry is steadily attracting regional and international investment, and investment returns in the sector is among the highest in the world, the World Bank (WB) said in a new report on Thursday.
The report projects that Africa's tourism industry is set to spur more economic growth for the continent.
WB vice president for Africa Makhtar Diop said Africa's private companies are increasingly attracting regional and international investment and the returns on investing in the continent are among the highest in the globe.
"In close alliance with the private sector, governments must also do their part to create better transport, electricity, infrastructure, and other key services to develop tourism for more broad-based growth and improved livelihoods," Diop said.
The WB notes the global hotel chains are expanding across Africa, recognizing investment potential and committing millions of dollars in new projects over the next few years to meet increased demand from both international tourists and the continent's own fast-growing middle class.
The report comes a week after Europe's oldest luxury hotel group, Kempinski Hotels, announced plans to expand its portfolio of luxury hotels across Africa.
Kempinski Hotels CEO Reto Wittwer told journalists in Nairobi on Sept. 26 that the global brand which has two new properties opened in Kenya in 2013 and will add five more hotels to its African portfolio in the next year.
"We will continue our development strategy throughout the continent over the next few years, partnering with key players in Africa to secure the best locations for our luxury properties," he said.
"There is a worldwide fascination with this region and we believe in the strength of places like Kenya as a destination," Wittwer.
Sub-Saharan African countries are currently a prized destination for international hotel brands and the trend will continue thanks to a friendly investment climate and competitiveness.
A number of multinational investors have increased their investors in the hotel industry by setting up several operations in sub Sahara Africa, Kenya in particular.
Wittwer said after the company's success expanding into the Middle East and China over the past 20 years, Kempinski expects its growing portfolio in key destinations across the African continent to become a major source of revenue for the company, as well as provide new sources for talent and talent development across the company.
According to the report, Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods, Africa's tourism is set to accelerate economic growth, create new employment and is expected to outpace other regions for new tourism investment.
The report cites successful examples of countries including Kenya, Cape Verde, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and others, who have simplified their tourism policies creating conducive investment climate for tourism growth.
According to statistics from the WB, Africa attracted 33.8 million visitors in 2012, up from a low 6.7 million visitors in 1990, and its receipts from tourism for the same year amounted to over 36 billion U.S. dollars, or 2.8 percent of the region's GDP.
Global tourism in 2011 contributed 9.1 percent to world GDP, 5. 9 percent of worldwide exports and 4.5 percent of global investment. Africa's tourism revenues are rising fast and are set to contribute more and more to world activity.
According to Hannah Messerli, co-author of the report, although Africa's tourism potential has largely gone untapped to date, it can now take steps to close the gap with other regions.
"Given the continent's abundant natural and cultural resources, as well as business activity, the fundamentals are in place for tourism growth," said Messerli who is also senior private sector development specialist in WB's Africa Region.
"Using the strategies and examples presented in this report, Africa can claim its fair share of world tourism," the specialist added.
The report shows that tourism which accounted directly or indirectly for one in every 20 jobs in Sub Saharan Africa in 2011 is one of the few industries on the continent in which women are well represented as employees and managers.
"For African countries looking to sustain and increase growth, tourism can be harnessed through joint public and private sector efforts to achieve growth, wealth creation and shared prosperity," said Gaiv Tata, Director of Financial and Private Sector Development for the WB in Africa.
The report suggests that 33 of Sub Saharan Africa's 48 countries currently have the capacity for tourism success through establishing strong political support for developing the industry and attracting increased private investment to help finance and sustain it.
This gives new impetus to the continent's development progress by leveraging tourism in pursuit of lasting poverty alleviation and significantly more jobs and opportunity for all Africans.
This report identifies policies and institutional approaches to improve the tourism competitiveness of African countries so they can move up the pyramid.
It clearly explains the opportunities and challenges that tourism offers and suggests tourism competitiveness strategies based on tourism economic success stories from across the world.
With an analysis of 24 tourism case studies from around the world, the report is a valuable and timely contribution to efforts to build a framework for sustainable tourism in Africa.