Ethiopia recorded the biggest tourism growth of any country in the world, according the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual review of the economic impact and social importance of the sector, released last week.

The annual report revealed the results of its review of countries across the globe, for the 2018 period. Ethiopia surprised the industry with a 48.5% growth in the country’s tourism economy, while South Africa saw a decline of 1.9%, Angola 2.5%, and Zimbabwe and the DRC, 0.1% and 1.7% respectively.

Only four southern and East African countries saw tourism growth declines.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President and CEO said: “Ethiopia’s travel and tourism boom was one of the great success stories of 2018. It has exceeded our sector’s global and regional comparisons to record the highest level of growth of any country in 2018.”

“Travel and tourism in Ethiopia now accounts for one in every eleven dollars in the entire economy,” she added.

Tourism’s contribution to country economy

The Seychelles recorded the biggest percentage of tourism’s contribution to its country’s economy, at 67.1%, with Mauritius coming in second at 24.3%, and Madagascar at 15.7%.

Seychelles’ tourism sector’s contribution to its country’s GDP accounts for more than half of any other sector’s contribution.

International visitor spend

South Africa is ahead of all African countries in its international tourism visitor-spend figures, according to the report. A record of $9.7bn was spent in SA over the 2018 period, with Ethiopia coming in second at $4.08bn, Tanzania at $2.5bn, Mauritius at $2.21bn, Kenya at $1.73bn and Botswana at $1.26bn.

South Africa holds the highest international visitor spend of all southern and East African countries.

Guevara comments: “Travel and tourism contribute more to the South African economy than in any other African country. South Africa has long grasped the potential of travel and tourism to drive economic growth, create jobs and promote social development. Looking to the future, I believe that travel and tourism are South Africa’s greatest resources, and the country’s strategy for expansion, which prioritises regional integration, environment sustainability and putting the community at the heart of decisions, will make for a successful combination.”

Forecast of international arrivals for 2019

SA is expected to see a healthy volume of international arrivals in 2019, with 10.9m visitors expected to visit the country. The WTTC expects arrivals of 2.5m in Zimbabwe, 2m in Botswana, 1.8m in Uganda, 1.7m in Mozambique, 1.6m in Namibia and 1.5m in Kenya.

Southern and East Africa look forward to healthy arrivals in 2019, according to WTTC, and strong initiatives by the tourism sectors will be pivotal drivers to arrivals and spend.