Canadian mining firms, lured to West Africa by low taxes and friendly governments, must now grapple with an emerging new risk: the rising threat of attack by Islamist radicals in the region.
Canadian gold miners have been among the biggest investors in many West African nations in recent years. But after a wave of terrorist assaults on hotels and tourist sites over the past year, along with a report of a rocket attack on a French uranium mine, West Africa is becoming a more dangerous place for foreign investors.
In a sign of the new anxieties, Burkina Faso announced this month that it will deploy more than 3,600 soldiers and police to protect the nation’s 18 mining sites from the escalating threat of attack by Islamist extremists who have already struck at targets in the country.
Gunmen from an Islamist radical group killed 30 people, including six Canadians, in an attack on a hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital in January.
Iamgold Corp. of Toronto is one of Burkina Faso’s biggest employers, operating a modern gold mine at Essakane in the country’s northeast, near the borders of Mali and Niger. The company’s officials, replying to questions about the new military deployment, said they have a policy of refusing to comment on security matters.
In the past, Canadian mining companies have pointed out that the terrorist attacks and other violent conflicts in Africa are usually in the capital cities, far from their remote mining sites. But this may be changing.
In late May, an Islamist radical group said it had fired Grad rockets at a uranium mining site in the Agadez region of Niger. The site belongs to the French uranium mining company Areva, although the company did not confirm the attack.
A notorious radical militia, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for the Areva attack and warned that all Western businesses were “legitimate targets.” Just two months earlier, the same group claimed responsibility for a Grad rocket attack on a gas facility in Algeria.
In a recent report on Burkina Faso, the International Monetary Fund said there are concerns about the security threat in “rural and border areas” in the country. “Mining companies in particular note that they have had to step up security measures as they cannot fully rely on the police or army,” the IMF said in the June report.
Burkina Faso’s foreign minister, Alpha Barry, in an interview after the terrorist attack in January, pledged that his government would strengthen the protection of Canadian mining companies. He pleaded with Canadian miners to keep their investments in the country. “These are companies that enable Burkina Faso to live,” he said. “Our economy depends on it.”
Islamist radicals could attack Western mining companies for kidnapping operations or for strategic reasons, analysts say. “Such institutions remain at a credible threat of being targeted, given the dynamic nature of terrorism in the Sahel and Maghreb regions,” said Ryan Cummings, director of Signal Risk, an Africa-focused risk analysis consultancy.
“Mining sites in countries located within AQIM’s operational theatre, namely Mali and all countries sharing a border with the country, are susceptible to an attack,” he said.
Mining companies in West Africa have already been targeted for kidnapping operations to raise revenue from ransom, Mr. Cummings noted. But groups such as AQIM could be targeting mining companies because any economic decline in West African countries would make it easier to radicalize their populations, he said.
Earn valuable CPD credits
Cape Town – After two financial years filled with promises of development on Robben Island, the National Department of Tourism (NDT) has finally taken steps in getting the ball rolling.
The NDT has issued an R10m destination development grant for the island, aimed at enhancing the visitor experience through supporting identified and planned components.
Trevor Bloem, NDT spokesperson, told Traveller24 the funding is aimed at enhancing the visitor experience through supporting identified and planned destination development components.
“While the current support focus is on capacity development for tourist guides, digitisation of heritage information and archives, improving visitor information services, increasing existing and introducing additional food and beverage facilities, and a craft centre, the department is also exploring ways in which more South Africans can gain access to, and experience attractions like Robben Island through initiatives such as open days,” Bloem says.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.
In implementing the grant to good use, Robben Island World Heritage Site will focus on the following core purposes:
– Implementation of an integrated management approach and tools for the site
– Enhancement of universal access
– Improved visitor experience through effective visitor management
– Improved interpretation and public programming
– Review and implementation of policies for the management of the site
– Ensuring the significance of the site through sound conservation management strategies
– Providing an opportunity for sustainable economic empowerment
These improvements form part of SA Tourism’s R100 million investment in domestic tourism, aimed at getting locals to travel more.
SA Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom in his annual Tourism budget speech in May this year said the NDT will make a concerted effort to Go Green in 2016.
The same was said during the 2014/2015 Tourism Budget speech. But this most recent NDT development grand to Robben Island seems to be a concrete step in the actual implementation of the goal.
ANALYSISBy Marco Scholtz, North-West University
More than 30 million tourists visit Africa every year. Over half of the international arrivals are for business purposes, and may partake in tourist activities as well, while 15% travel for pure tourism and 30% visit friends and family.
Tourists select the continent as a destination for wildlife viewing and to enjoy the sunny skies. Africa is the world’s number one destination for safaris which range from the exotic to the very simple.
The tourism industry is one of the most important for the continent: it provided 12.8 million people with jobs, directly and indirectly, in 2011. Tourism in 2012 contributed over US$36 billion or 2.8% of the continent’s GDP.
The continent’s vast and diverse nature makes it complex and difficult to decide on the best region for a safari. But the east, central and southern parts of the continent are by far the preferred choices. These areas generally have well developed or fast developing tourism sectors. There is an abundance of wildlife as well as low to no visa requirements. Tourists to these regions mostly come from countries like France, the UK, the USA, Germany and Portugal.
Below is a quick guide to some of the safari hot spots on the African continent.
East African countries are strongly reliant on the tourism industry for generating income. Strong improvements in marketing and cooperation between these nations will help to ensure the success of this vital tourism sector.
Standardised criteria for hotels, restaurants and other services across these countries will make it easier for tourists to find suitable services. These countries possess various natural and cultural resources that make tourism possible.
The Serengeti wildebeest migration is the main reason Kenya and Tanzania have become popular safari destinations. This migration sees millions of wildebeest, accompanied by various other animal species, move between Tanzania and Kenya. The best places to view this migration include Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. .
And while in the area, don’t forget to visit Africa’s highest mountain –Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro National Park.
The Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area is also a great choice with an abundance of big 5 – the African elephant, African lion, white/black rhinoceros, African leopard and the Cape buffalo – and will not disappoint.
Civil wars and terrorist groups have made it dangerous to travel to some countries in this region. Many tourists still take their chances, though, as Central Africa is an area of immense natural beauty.
Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda are great places to view the endangeredmountain gorillas. The best places for viewing them include theVirunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in south-west Uganda, orVolcanoes National Park in north-west Rwanda.
Various factors have threatened the population of gorillas, including poaching, habitat loss, disease, war and unrest and poverty. Today, due to conservation efforts, the population of mountain gorillas is showing steady growth. The fact that many tourists want to get up close to these animals also drives conservation efforts, since with tourism comes economic improvement.
If you’d prefer to take part in Africa’s best on-foot chimpanzee encounters, visit Kibale Forest in Uganda.
South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi offer very diverse wildlife. This is because of the variety of biomes in the region.
Chobe National Park is home to the biggest concentration of elephants in the world – 70 000 of them. It lies between the Chobe River and the Okavango Delta in the north eastern parts of Botswana. Also in Botswana, the Moremi Game Reserve, in the iconic Okovango Delta, is the first reserve in Africa to be established by local residents.
The Etosha National Park in the northern arid region of Namibia offers great chances of spotting endangered black rhinoceros as well as flamingos in the salt pans.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park was the first site in South Africa to be awarded World Heritage status. It contains most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests and is Africa’s largest estuarine system, which is a partially enclosed body of water where fresh water from rivers and streams mix with salt water from the ocean. The park borders Kosi Bay and St Lucia Lake which is the only place in the world where you can find sharks, hippopotamus and crocodiles in the same body of water.
Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape province is the only park where you can find the Big 7: the African elephant, Cape buffalo, African lion, African leopard, African rhino as well as whales and Great White sharks.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park consists of mostly unspoiled wilderness in the north of South Africa, crossing over into Botswana. This park is largely located in a desert area and is famous for animal species such as the Kalahari black-maned lions and the Gemsbok or Oryx.
As in most of Japan, 2011 was a difficult year for tourism in Tanabe City in Wakayama Prefecture.
Prospects for the city’s already-quiet tourism industry were looking bleak.
The entire nation had been rocked on March 11 by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, then government-mandated evacuations around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants.
Between March and April of 2011, inbound tourist arrivals are estimated to have dropped 90% across Japan.
Then, just as Tanabe was regrouping for the fall tourist season, a major typhoon hit the region in September.
Floods and landslides destroyed roads, houses, rail lines and the city’s newly built heritage center.
“It was devastating,” says Brad Towle, international tourism promotion and development director for the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau.
Yet from these calamities an unexpected outcome emerged, one that affirmed that a unique model of tourism development recently introduced in Tanabe was working.
“All tours to the area were canceled except those from our local reservation system,” says Towle. “Travel agencies had given up on our community, but because we had created our own community systems, we were stronger and could control our destiny.
“Because of the strength of these local relationships and grassroots systems, our city recovered much quicker than those around us.”
Those “grassroots systems” refer to a groundbreaking community-based tourism model developed in part by Towle, in which “community members are actively involved in the entire (tourism development) process,” from creating a tourism vision, implementing booking systems, improving infrastructure, even creating branding, marketing and sales initiatives, according to the tourism officer.
Originally from a small town in Manitoba, Canada, Towle has lived in Japan on and off since 1999.
He became a founding member of the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau in 2006.
Sizing up the challenges of promoting tourism in a small, relatively un-publicized area — about 80,000 people live in the larger Tanabe City area — Towle went to work to create a local reservations system and overcome language barriers.
Since many of the family-run businesses in the area had neither the means to market their services nor ability to speak foreign languages, it had been difficult for travelers, especially international travelers, to research the area or make reservations.
After consulting the community, an online reservation system in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, English, French and Spanish was built, allowing travelers to more easily book services directly with individual businesses.
The result was the most thorough guide to the area ever published and a platform to promote local services.
“Every business can be a member,” says Towle. “By packing all local businesses into one site, profits go back to Tanabe instead of to travel agencies in big cities.”
‘Nothing else like it.’
In order to serve as a middleman between travelers and businesses, the tourism office had to be registered as a travel agency.
This required immense amounts of funding, paperwork and lobbying.
“Japan has been ruled by large, powerful travel agencies for so long,” says Towle. “Nobody could visualize this kind of tourism model and that it could actually be effective.
“There’s nothing else like it in Japan.”
Hundreds of hours were spent meeting with local businesses to hammer out agreements around plans, prices and commissions.
“We traveled to accommodations, took pictures and registered information almost day and night for many months on end,” says Towle.
“It was the first time for a community in Japan to start their own travel agency and reservation system for both domestic and international travelers.”
It took three years to work through all the paperwork and registration for the travel agency license.
In 2012, less than two years after the system was launched, Tanabe City was named a finalist for a Tourism for Tomorrow Award by the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The award celebrates innovation in travel and tourism.
Delegations from around Japan began visiting Tanabe to study its tourism model.
In 2015, the Tanabe tourism office was long-listed for a World Responsible Tourism Award.
Building local confidence
A major responsibility of Tanabe’s five-man bureau is to preserve and promote Kumano Kodo, a series of scenic pilgrimage routes sprawling within and beyond the city.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, it’s one of only two pilgrimages in the world to have attained such status. (The other is Camino de Santiago in Spain.)
As part this effort, Towle’s team educates tourists on the importance of respecting heritage in the region.
They’ve revamped signage and built new visitor centers catering to Japanese and overseas pilgrims.
New toilets and teahouses built along popular routes are run by locals.
In the city center, menus have been translated into English.
A map has been published to help travelers weave through maze-like food alleys.
“Level-up” workshops and discussions help residents learn skills for improved cultural communication.
Matsumoto Seiko volunteers at a teahouse along one route.
She also leads tours around Hongu Shrine.
“When I was younger, I was working in Osaka,” says Matsumoto. “My accent from the countryside made me very self-conscious and shy, but since my hometown has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I’m so proud to introduce it to others.”
An elderly couple who own a guesthouse were initially nervous about hosting non-Japanese-speakers.
After training, they became receptive to overseas visitors — now, more than 50% of their guests are non-Japanese, according to Towle.
Happy locals make happy tourists
Towle believes community involvement gives locals tools to control their own future.
“The community’s input shapes the way tourism affects them and their community, giving power back to the people,” he says.
Rather than seeking simply to boost tourist arrivals, Tanabe City places its emphasis on attracting responsible tourists.
“Numbers are important, but not everything,” says Towle. “Numbers can be deceiving and manipulated.”
“We didn’t focus on the number of tourists at first, but rather went beyond this to see how satisfied our guests were as a way of rating of our progress.
“We also looked at the number of people to the actual time and money they spent — fewer people spending more time and money is better for us and our infrastructure than a large number of people in the area spending less time and money.
“It’s important to look beyond the numbers, to see the actual quality of life of the locals.
“If the locals aren’t happy, then our community won’t succeed or survive.
“If there’s a good atmosphere, this can be felt by visitors.”
Travelling light can have heavy costs.
A tourist flying economy class from Britain to Kenya and back generates around a tonne of carbon emissions, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
No matter how many times he reuses his towels or sits on a composting toilet when he is there, he could never hope to offset the burning of all that jet fuel.
Does that mean the very notion of “sustainable tourism” is an oxymoron?
The phrase has three possible meanings. The first is ecological. Given the contribution that transport, especially by air, makes to global warming, on this definition it is almost guaranteed to fall short.
The only truly sustainable holiday would be camping in the back garden eating berries, says Harald Zeiss of the Institute for Sustainable Tourism at Harz University in Germany.
The second is social. Ideally, when cultures meet and gain in mutual understanding, the long-term benefits will be intangible, but real.
The final one is economic. Tourists who step off the beaten track have a chance to help lift the poor out of poverty and encourage them to preserve their environments for financial gain.
The question is how much weight to give to each. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a United Nations agency, 1.1 billion international trips were made in 2014, a 4.4 per cent increase on the year before.
As popular destinations become overcrowded, more people seek places that remain comparatively unspoilt. But pristine wildernesses don’t stay pristine for long once they are on the holiday trail. The paradox of sustainable tourism is that it can be “both a destroyer of nature and an agent for its conservation”, notes Andrew Holden of Bedfordshire University in Britain.
Keeping resorts small, and perhaps even temporary, can help resolve that paradox of conservation.
Maurice Phillips and Geri Mitchell opened Sandele, an eco-resort, in Gambia in 2008. Locals are too often persuaded to sell their land to developers for less than it is worth, says Phillips, and villages can vanish once the hotels go up.
Instead, he leased the land for Sandele from villagers, and employs them in the resort. When the lease runs out in 20 years’ time, the property will revert to locals, who should by then have the skills to manage it.
The pair also run courses for locals, including on how to make “rocket stoves” that require very little wood for fuel, thereby reducing deforestation.
Those on larger scale ecotourism packages may be doing good in other ways. Concentrating large numbers of visitors in a single location increases their local impact – which can be for the better.
If a resort buys local food, says Zeiss, or invests in renewable energy generation that can be used by those who live nearby, then the surrounding area can receive a boost.
But hotels must seek ways to mitigate their negative effects. Though signs suggesting that guests can help “save the planet” by reusing their towels overstate the case, waterguzzling is one of the biggest evils of mass tourism.
An analysis by Thomas Cook, a large holiday firm, suggests that on average each tourist around the world accounts for around 350 litres of water per day by showering, using the swimming pool and the like – which rises to 6000 litres when indirect use such as food production is added. In Greece, for example, each tourist directly uses around three-fifths more water than a local.
Being more frugal with water can boost comanies’ profits. TUI, another big travel company, says it saved €2.2 million ($3.5 million) in 2014 by cutting energy and water use at 43 of its hotels.
But often it is the guests themselves who kick against energy-saving initiatives. To stop patrons leaving lights and airconditioning on when they are out, many hotels have keycards that control the electrics in rooms.
Yet some report that guests override the system by inserting a business card into the control slot before heading out, rather than waiting to recharge portable devices or put up with a stuffy room for a few minutes on their return.
Overall, the benefits of sustainable tourism outweigh the harms, thinks Dirk Glaesser of UNWTO. And Zeiss argues that the most unnecessary flights are taken not by tourists but by businessfolk who fly abroad for a toe-touch meeting that could easily have been replaced by a videocall, and then fly home the same day.
But it is unclear how many such trips actually occur. Executives already have an incentive to avoid unnecessary business travel – it is less fun than the frivolous sort.
South African Tourism’s West Africa Trade Workshop held recently in Lagos was a major marketing campaign platform aimed at increasing tourist arrivals from the West African sub-region. The high-profile guests and stakeholders from the travel and tourism industry converged on Federal Palace Hotel & Casino Lagos, venue of the Power Breakfast Dialogue and Trade Workshop to discuss, project and smooth out grey areas. Omolola Itayemi writes
South African Government has said it must align its efforts in critical areas such as expanding air connectivity and tourist friendly travel facilitations to attract more tourists. The country’s Consul-General in Nigeria, Amb. Mokgethi Monaisa made this known during his opening remarks at the South Africa Tourism/ West Africa Trade Workshop held recently in Lagos.
The envoy informed that the South African Consulate issued 133, 114 visas to Nigerians between January 2013 and June 2015. According to the envoy, visas issued to Nigerians visiting South Africa in 2013 amounts to 59657; 48289 in 2014 and 25168 in 2015 alone. So far, successful visa applicants in the country have spent over N2 billion on the procurement of the South African visas in three years.
The sum accrued from the successful issuance of visas to 133,114 applicants between January 2013 and June 2015. The N21,000 fee per visa applicant, comprises N8,600 visa fees which go directly to the South Africa embassy and N12,000 service charges that go to VSF, the handling company. Amb. Monaisa however, said that “South Africa’s bilateral relations with Nigeria continued to strengthen. A bi-national commission of cooperation between the two countries was established to lay a firm foundation for co-operation and partnership within the broader objectives of the African Renaissance, and have since then grown from strength to strength”.
He said that South Africa and surely Nigeria saw a mixed performance across key source markets, adding that even in the face of Ebola challenges, tourism grew substantially in 2014. He pointed out that the INDABA 2015 hosted in Durban, South Africa recorded success.
“A few months ago, South Africa hosted INDABA 2015 in Durban. With more than 1000 exhibitors, including 300 exhibitors from 20 African countries, and about 2000 buyers from the world’s tourism source markets, INDABA 2015 was a resounding success. We hope to call for proposals for a potential partner with a global reach to expand INDABA even further”. He said selling South African products to the world was extremely important, “but equally important is that the product itself has to be continuously enhanced.”
He also said that tourism in South Africa contributed no less than 9.4% to GDP in 2014, and more importantly, one in every 10 jobs is supported by tourism. “However, tourism growth should not only be measured by the numbers of domestic tourists or international arrivals.”
Monaisa added: “Tourism growth has to be environmentally and socially sustainable. And it has to be inclusive growth. To achieve this, we must bring more marginalised communities into the tourism mainstream.” Speaking further at the workshop, Regional Director for Africa, South African Tourism, Evelyn Mahlaba, noted that the bulk of the successful visa applicants were visitors from the age category of between 25 years to late 30s.
Also, about 40 percent of the applicants visited for leisure while 60 percent came for business. Mahlaba observed that over 60,000 Nigerian arrivals to South Africa in 2014 (a figure representing 9 percent of Nigeria’s total outbound tours), were attracted by the country’s value for money tailor-made tour packages, well-developed tourism facilities, quality accommodations in its 5,253 graded hotels and resorts, efficient transport systems, beautiful landscape and exuberant culture among others.
To facilitate a smooth operation towards achieving these targets, there has been the launch of South African Tourism office in Lagos with the entire West Africa as its catchment area and the recent launch of VFS office in Port Harcourt top ease the stress of visa procurement for people in the South East and South South Nigeria.
Also explaining why the Trade Workshop in Lagos was imperative, Mosilo Sofonia, researcher at South African Tourism, in her presentation tagged SAT; Nigeria: Travel market insights, noted that the focus on West Africa and Nigeria in particular was because Africa is the base-load of international tourism to South Africa, with over 70 percent of all arrivals every year.
Of that percentage, Nigeria alone contributes the most arrivals of the Africa air markets and exceeds the second largest market by more than 20,000 arrivals.
“Outside of Africa land markets, Nigeria has the highest number of tourist arrivals into South Africa from the continent. From a West African viewpoint, Nigeria contributes about three quarters of tourist arrivals as well as revenue into South Africa”, she said.
Johannesburg – The new immigration regulations that came into effect at the beginning of the month are already hurting the South African tourism industry, according to a new report released on Tuesday.
The impact assessment report, compiled by the Tourism Business Council of SA, named two changes in the regulations that directly affected tourism.
The first was the requirement for all children under the age of 18 travelling to and from South Africa to be in possession of an unabridged birth certificate in addition to their passport and visa, where applicable.
The second was for tourists from countries that are required to have a visa to now appear in person during the visa application process in order to obtain a biometric visa.
“From May to December 2014, South Africa lost 66 000 foreign tourists due to changes in the immigration regulations,” the report said.
“Approximately 43% of these lost tourists would have been from Asian/Australasian countries, 16% from European countries and 15% from Africa.”
The council said that in 2014, South Africa’s tourism industry lost direct spend of R886m due to the new regulations. This figure only included what tourists would have spent while in South Africa.
“The total direct, indirect and induced impact on the South African economy in 2014 was a negative R2.6bn and a potential loss of more than 5 800 jobs,” the report said.
“In 2015, the number of lost foreign tourists due to changes in the immigration regulations is likely to increase to 100 000, with a direct tourism spend of R1.4bn and the total net loss to the South African GDP of around R4.1bn and a loss of 9 300 jobs.”
The report stated that no other country required children to travel with an unabridged birth certificate in addition to their passport when travelling with both parents.
There was also no international standard for birth certificates, as each country had the right to develop their own document that proved the birth or existence of a person. Some countries did not even issue birth certificates.
“Many people do not have a copy of their birth certificate, even if their birth has been registered. Therefore obtaining a certified copy of this document is frequently costly and timely. For some countries this can take months,” the report stated.
“In particular, visitors from African and eastern countries are likely to experience the most difficulty in obtaining birth certificates timeously and without hassle.
“Thus, tourists looking to travel to South Africa with their children may well be deterred from visiting due to the hassle factor of having to secure birth certificates for their children and hence could choose another destination with simpler entry requirements.”
It was estimated that around 15% of inbound tourists in South Africa, about 1.4 million people, would be impacted by the requirement for children to travel with a birth certificate, assuming a ratio of one adult to one child.
“Approximately 700 000 children [younger than 18 years] visited South Africa in 2014 and given the expected growth trajectory in foreign tourism to South Africa, this number would be expected to grow significantly in the future,” the report stated.
“Assuming a 20% drop in demand from the family market will result in a direct, indirect and induced loss to the South African economy of at least R10bn per annum and potential job losses of around 24 000.”
In 2014, South Africa received 9.55 million foreign overnight tourists, an increase of 7.5% from 2013.
However, the number of visitors from China and India in particular decreased significantly in 2014.
Citizens from both of these countries need a short-stay visa when visiting South Africa.
Demand from China dropped by almost a quarter in 2014. Less than 83 000 Chinese tourists visited South Africa in 2014, down from 109 000 in 2013.
“China has become the largest outbound tourism market in the world with 109 million outbound tourists in 2014. Furthermore, Chinese tourists are big spenders and collectively represent the world’s top tourist spending nation,” the report stated.
“China is a significant source market for South Africa’s tourism industry and has shown significant growth up until 2014 [35% annual compound growth between 2011 and 2013].”
According to tour operators, the amendments to the immigration regulations were the key game changer in relation to reduced visitors from China.
Even though the changes were not fully implemented, the “inconsistencies in the messaging was sufficient to deter this market”. The reduced demand from China has had a “devastating impact” on tourist businesses in South Africa that specialised in that market.
“What used to be one of South Africa’s largest overseas tourism markets has been decimated, a large part of which is due to South Africa’s changing visa regime.”
The Indian market also dropped by 9% in 2014, due to visa difficulties which have been experienced since the latter part of 2013.
“In summary, reduced demand from the Indian market is primarily due to visa issuance problems and poor service delivery. The uncertainty regarding the implementation of biometric visas has further complicated the problem.”
Meanwhile, as South Africa lost out, other countries gained. For the 12-month period to the end of September 2014, Chinese visitors to Australia were up 10% while Mauritius experienced a “staggering” 67% rise in visitors.
For the same 12-month period, the number of Indian visitors to Australia increased by 15%.
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It came to light early this week that Tanzania has, once again, been rated as the best destination for tourists in Africa. This is delightful news, to say the very least.
The rating is a result of a research carried out by a Netherlands-based tourist website. The researchers collected reviews and star ratings online and saw Tanzania logging 188 reviews with 4.8 points out of a five-star rating, beating Botswana, Kenya and others.
Indeed, if all goes well, Tanzania is likely to take the top global ranking in the coming few years. It would be remiss not to point out here that last year Tanzania was voted the best African Safari Country.
In that foray Tanzania defeated eight fierce competitors for the title. These were Botswana, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Namibia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It was determined that Tanzania’s tourism spots were simply unrivaled.
In that research enquiry more than 1,000 people from 53 countries wrote more than 2,300 messages to SafariBookings.coma of the Netherlands praising Tanzanian tourism spots. More than 44 per cent of Tanzanian land area is covered with game reserves and national parks.
There are 16 national parks, 29 game reserves, 40 controlled conservation areas and marine parks. Mount Kilimanjaro, the Roof of Africa, is also located in Tanzania.
At the moment Tanzania envisages creating a friendlier tourism climate that would see the number of arrivals climbing Mount Kilimanjaro from the current 800,000 to 1.6 million annually by the end of this year. This is encouraging news as the nation’s share of earnings from tourism is bleak.
This stark reality needs remedial action. It is unthinkable that a country that has 16 attractive wildlife sanctuaries should fail to shunt in millions of lovers of nature.
But while we praise the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism for its quest to double the number of tourist arrivals this year we tend to forget the annoying fact that the nation has too few tourist hotel beds and other facilities. And most of its feeder roads are impassable.
During peak tourism seasons, especially between June and November, hotels fill too full and the nation falls embarrassingly short of beds. Tanzania has about 15,000 beds in hotels against a requirement of 1.6 million by the end of this year.
The situation calls for a scramble to construct tourist hotels if the 2015 target is to be met comfortably. Kenya has more than 28,000 tourist beds on the Indian Ocean coastline alone.
The city of Nairobi has more than 15,000. This means that Kenya, which logs 1.5 million tourist arrivals every year, will keep sprinting ahead in the tourism industry if too little or nothing is done to sell Tanzania as a tourist destination.
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South Africa has been ranked first in Sub-Saharan Africa on the biennial World Economic Forum Travel’s global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) 2015 released in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday.
Snatching the zenith from Seychelles in the Sub-Saharan Africa category, South Africa was ranked at number 48 globally, while the archipelago of islands was second in the region and followed at a somewhat distant 54 on the world stage.
Seychelles topped the regional rankings in the 2013 report and was at 38 globally, when South Africa held positions 3 and 64.
Mauritius was placed third in the region this year, followed by Namibia, Kenya, Cape Verde, Botswana, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia respectively as the Sub-Saharan top ten of 2015.
On the global front, Spain was ranked at the apex, followed by France and then Germany.
Other traditional travel and tourism destinations – the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Japan and Canada – made up the rest of the global top ten.
Compared with other Brics countries, South Africa (at 48 globally) was rated better only than New Delhi. Brazil was ranked 28, Russia 45, India 52 and China was at an enviable 17 on the global front.
“The diversity in the top 30 shows that a country does not have to be wealthy to have a flourishing tourism sector,” said Roberto Crotti, an Economist at the World Economic Forum. “But many countries should still do more to tackle travel and tourism challenges, including visa policies, better promotion of cultural heritage, environmental protection and ICT readiness. This, in turn, would drive economic growth and the creation of jobs.”
The report contains detailed country profiles, benchmarking for the 141 economies featured in the study. It includes a comprehensive summary of their overall positions in the index and a guide to the most prominent travel and tourism advantages and disadvantages of each. Also included is an extensive selection of tables that cover each indicator used in the index’s computation.
The report’s executive summary states that many countries in the Sub-Saharan region “are working on their openness and visa policies, though the longstanding challenges of infrastructure and health and hygiene standards need to be tackled to unleash the potential of the T&T (travel and tourism) sector as a catalyst for development”.
Published under the theme “Growing through Shocks”, the full edition of the 2015 report features three additional chapters authored by leading experts and practitioners in the hospitality and tourism sector.
Among other key findings, the 2015 edition shows that the tourism and travel industry continues to grow more quickly than the global economy as a whole. As proof of its resilience, the analysis shows that the sector’s growth – whether in terms of global air passenger traffic, occupancy rates or international arrivals – tends to return to trend quickly after a shock.
The report ranks the 141 countries across 14 separate dimensions, revealing how well countries could deliver sustainable economic and societal benefits through their travel and tourism sector. Spain’s leadership position is attributed to a world class ranking in cultural resources (number 1 globally); its ability to support online searches for entertainment (4th), a measure of how well the country has adapted to consumption habits brought on by the digital revolution; as well as excellent infrastructure (4th).
The World Economic Forum produced the report in collaboration with Strategy & Bloom consulting, Deloitte, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The comprehensive report can be viewed online.
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This season around 37,000 tourists are expected to visit Antarctica – home to about 20 million pairs of breeding penguins. But is it ethically acceptable to go on holiday to such a pristine environment?
Enfolded in two glacial arms the bay before us sparkles ultramarine, the water flecked with ice-lilies and dotted with bits of floating icebergs.
A sheer cliff towers dark above us, flanked by snow slopes as pure white as the glistening fronts of the little Adelie penguins whose spectacled eyes peer curiously around as they waddle and toboggan about their business just a few feet away.
This is Brown Bluff on the Antarctic Peninsula and togged up in layer upon layer of fleece, topped with vivid red wetskins I am all too aware that this is not my habitat.
Which begs the question: Should I be here? Am I, just by setting foot on this extraordinary continent, disturbing a pristine environment and polluting the last great wilderness on earth?
All visitors leave a footprint, admits my tour leader, Boris Wise of One Ocean Expeditions, and we all tend to go to the same places – the accessible coastline – which is also where the penguins and seals go to breed.
Nonetheless, he argues, carefully controlled tourism is not just OK but useful.
Without a native population of its own, Antarctica needs advocates and tourism creates a global constituency of people ready to support – and indeed fund – its preservation.
Not everyone is convinced the benefits outweigh the risks but most are pragmatic.
“It is better to have a certain level of responsible tourism than for it to go under the radar,” says Jane Rumble, Head of Polar Regions at the British Foreign Office.
This season 37,000 tourists are expected in Antarctica, although 10,000 will never go ashore.
About half the tourist ships are, like ours, flagged to Antarctic Treaty countries making them legally bound by the treaty’s environmental standards.
The other half are worryingly outside this regulation but most are part of the International Maritime Organisation which is just introducing a stricter polar code, and at present all the companies regularly bringing tourists here are members of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) which works closely with the Antarctic Treaty System.
As our ship crosses 60 degrees south into Antarctica we are given a mandatory briefing before gathering in the ship’s mud room for a “vacuum party”.
As a portable amp sets the rhythm with the music of aptly-named bands, Passenger and The Black Seeds, we biosecure ourselves, hoovering our clothes and kit and disinfecting our boots to ensure we introduce no alien species to Antarctica.
Does this really work, I wonder? Apparently it does. Non-native species have been accidentally introduced to the region but not, as far as anyone knows, by tourists.
In fact, research suggest that scientific programmes may have much more environmental impact than tourism.
Scientists, of course, argue that they also bring more benefit, including increasing understanding of how crucially changes in the Antarctic link to changes in the global environment.
Our ship never docks. We anchor and go ashore by biosecured dinghy.
There is no eating or smoking on land and we are instructed to take nothing away except photographs and leave nothing behind, not even a bit of yellow snow.
“So don’t drink too much at breakfast,” grins Boris.
We are told not to get any nearer than 5m from Antarctic wildlife.
But nobody told the penguins and, although we never touch, we have delightfully close encounters, especially with the confident little red-beaked gentoos.
One passenger is allowed to get as close as he likes. He is Phil McDowell, marine biologist and penguin counter from the independent research organisation Oceanites, who is hitching a lift on our ship to monitor the penguin colonies we visit.
There have been several studies comparing regularly visited colonies with those rarely in touch with humankind.
The results are strikingly inconclusive showing more-visited colonies variously doing worse, the same and even better.
Gentoos are thriving, McDowell tells me, increasing in both number and range.
Adelies, and the little helmeted chinstrap penguins, however, are in decline.
The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed by an average of 3C in the last 60 years, and winds have shifted, changing the pattern of the sea ice.
It is global warming that is changing the penguins’ fortunes, McDowell suggests, not tourism.
There are concerns for the future however. Tourist numbers look set to rise and membership of IAATO is voluntary.
Tourist ships are starting to offer activities like kayaking, mountaineering and diving which are potentially more invasive than simply looking.
The impact isn’t clear and more monitoring is certainly needed.
Back in London, enjoying my photos of ethereal icescapes and brilliantly comic penguins, I wonder again whether I should feel guilty for having been in Antarctica?
“No,” says polar expert Jane Rumble, “just do what you can to preserve it.”
Source: UK Progressive
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