‘Obama effect’ boosts African tourism

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Categories : Travel news

The "Obama effect" of a US president with African heritage and the 2010 World Cup are boosting tourism in Africa, industry experts say.

The head of the UN World Tourism Organisation, Taleb Rifai told a conference in Madrid: "There has been a shift in the way people look at Africa. Africa is now considered a very serious destination for travellers from the major generating markets."

Last week UNWTO said Africa had "bucked the global trend" in tourism in 2009. It was the only continent to see a rise in the number of international tourist arrivals last year - with travellers increasing by 5%. That compared to fall of 4% worldwide, attributed to the economic crisis and the swine flu panic created by drug companies and the media.

However, Rifai said Africa's share of the tourist market was still only 5% - or around 50 million tourists from a total of nearly 900-million.

Kenya's tourist board has said that the fact that President Obama's father was from Kenya has led to an increase in Americans visiting the country.

Meanwhile the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA) says this year's World Cup, which takes place in South Africa in June and July, will have an "enormous effect".

"The World Cup is certainly the most exciting thing to happen to Africa, not just southern Africa, all Africans are very proud that it's going to be there," the ATTA's head, Nigel Vere Nicoll, told the AFP news agency.

However, the news that FIFA has released thousands of South African bednights back into the accommodation market will put a damper on hopes that the World cup will be the economic boost African tourism needs. There are fears that South Africa's domestic problems and the effects of the global economic crisis may discourage many who might be thinking of travelling to the sub-continent.

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