UN figures show a decline in tourism in Africa

New figures for the United Nations suggest a decline in international tourism to sub-Saharan Africa in 2015. The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released its 2015 World Tourism Barometer with statistics based on overnight visitors to international destinations. Overall, the tourism sector registered robust growth last year. The number of visitors to foreign countries reached a record 1.184 billion, an increase of 50 million or 4.4% over 2014. It was the sixth consecutive year of strong growth in international tourism. However, African tourism seems to have bucked the trend. UNWTO notes that the data on African tourism are limited and unreliable. However the information that exists suggest the continent received 3% fewer international visitors in 2015. This is mostly due to a decline in visitors to North Africa, which accounts for over a third of arrivals to the continent. For sub-Saharan Africa, the figures suggest a 1% decline. Looking forward, UNWTO predicts African tourism will make a comeback in 2016, recording a 2% to 5% increase. The agency warns that the positive projection is subject to a large degree of uncertainty. “2015 results were influenced by exchange rates, oil prices and natural and manmade crises in many parts of the world," UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said. "We should recall that tourism development greatly depends upon our collective capacity to promote safe, secure and seamless travel." UNWTO is urging governments to include tourism in national security planning. The UN has declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in an effort to highlight tourism's contribution to development, cultural understanding and global peace.

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