By Niilo M Nakambale
TOURISM remains a key driver of the economies of African countries, as well as job creation.
According to the United Nation World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), in 2014 the African tourism sector performed strongly, and grew by 4 percent, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing tourism destinations.
In an era of growing political turmoil in Africa, the tourism sector is facing significant challenges.
Political stability and safety are fundamental to the industry. The mere threat of events, such as civil unrest and terrorism activities, can cause tourists to rethink their decision to visit a destination.
The impact of political instability on a destination is both immediate and potentially long-lasting. In some circumstances, terrorism actions and instability in one country may have an impact on the tourism sector of neighbouring countries.
African destinations are making all possible efforts to best promote their tourist offerings, in order to attract as many different tourist categories as they can.
However, these tourist destinations are sometimes associated with terrorist attacks, which can turn a famous tourist area into a highly avoided one.
Terrorism may be permanently detrimental to a tourist destination, on both social and economic levels.
Terrorism attacks cause insecurity, which leads to the decline or disappearance of tourist arrivals in the affected destinations.
Terrorism crowds the media; it physically hits, and psychologically vexes the minds. Tourists are an appealing target for terrorists, because they are seen as a country’s symbolic ambassadors, while tourism destinations are perfect and visible spots to deploy a terrorist attack. Terrorists are capable of using tourists as the means to get the media’s attention, and bombard the world with their message.
Risk perception, attitude and preferences are some of the main determinants for a tourist, when they choose a destination.
A potential tourist, who negatively conceives a destination as risky, may choose to cancel their travel or holiday, or not even consider it, because of security and safety motives.
Africa has been under attack from terrorism organisations for over two decades.
There has been a rise of prominence African terrorist groups like Boko Haram in West Africa and al- Shabaab in East Africa, and there have been a series of strikes on hotels used by foreigners in West and North Africa.
Most of African countries have vast of tourist attractions and untouched natural resources, which could make Africa a leading tourism destination in the world. However, the tourism industry is running at a slow pace, due to civil war, which has been mushrooming in many African countries, and has left the continent heavily polluted with landmines and other explosive military hardware.
These violent activities continue to undermine the tourism investment climate in Africa and have contributed to a loss of jobs and a decline in tourism activities.
Terrorists always aim to inspire the kind of fear that will get people to change their behaviour. Safety is the key concern to travellers and they always ensure that they go to places where security is guaranteed.
Revenues from tourism industry are significant, and many African countries stand to suffer severe economic losses from the slowdown of incoming tourists.
Tourism is one of the economic sectors, where developing countries consistently run a trade surplus, especially in least developed countries, which have few other economic options.
*Niilo M Nakambale is a Master of Tourism student at the International University of Management (IUM). His is from Okahao
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