World Tourism Day 2015 – “One Billion Tourists, One Billion Opportunities” (01.10.15)
This year World Tourism Day, 27 September, celebrates the theme ‘One Billion Tourists, One Billion Opportunities’. A positive strapline, yet one which is not easy to put into practice.
Positive in that the continued expansion in international traveller numbers is a force for good, even if managing such growth sustainably is tricky. Over a billion annual travellers is a number which creates its own problems on how to maximise on the billion opportunities. Especially when hoping to keep the focus on how best to ‘drive inclusive development, create jobs and build sustainable societies for the future’.
It’s a juggling act, especially when you factor in the backdrop of an ever-changing world which consistently undergoes political, economic and technological upheavals.
This is a theme I have expressed in a number of blog postings, from observing in general terms the ‘Changing Face of Travel’ as well as how ‘Travel & Tourism are Leading From The Front in the Happiness stakes’, to a more specific look at how Central Africa has fared from ’60 Years of Travel’, and to the positive impact the travel industry has had on women.
This year’s World Tourism Day was aptly hosted in Burkina Faso. Apt in that attendees would have appreciated how essential an upscale in Burkina Faso’s social, cultural, political and economic worth is to the overall sustainability of its future. It is a classic destination ready to benefit from the World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) recent call for ‘Higher Financing for Tourism in Development Cooperation’.
The issue for Africa is that although the world now sees over one billion travellers annually, this entire continent remains relatively unaffected. Certainly the issue of ‘availability’ (as highlighted in my blog three weeks ago) is not as problematic in West Africa, as it is in many other regions around the world. Far from it.
For example, after nearly thirty years of arranging travel for clients at Nomadic Thoughts, West Africa remains without doubt the remotest region in terms of popular well-known holiday locations. A region low in demand due as much to ignorance about opportunities, as to the shortage of tourism facilities.
So much so that we at Nomadic Thoughts have unfortunately never arranged a trip to Burkina Faso, nor to its dozen or so closest neighbours. This includes Gambia, which tends to be served by the more mainstream ‘package holiday’ style UK companies. It is as popular with British tourists as Senegal is with the French package industry. Otherwise the tourism industries of Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon are hugely limited and under-visited by us at Nomadic Thoughts.
Indeed, while its enormous potential may make Africa’s long term tourism future look rosy, the continent still feels to me as if it is collectively yet to get off the starting block. Poor press and a lack of understanding often hammer progress as my recent blog ‘Africa Tourism – Suffering from Ebola Ignorance’) highlighted.
Certainly it is far cry from New Zealand’s problems, on the other side of the world. This week tourism boss Kevin Bowler announced that the immense escalation in Chinese tourism numbers, at over 320,000 a year, was having a detrimental effect on the country’s ability to manage sustainable tourism growth.
His comments support the belief that a billion tourists do indeed need to be carefully managed and monitored in order to maximise on their potential billion opportunities.