UNITED NATIONS, July 5 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations said in a new report released Wednesday that African governments should make it easier and safer for Africans to travel within the continent.
"Tourism is a dynamic sector with phenomenal potential in Africa. Properly managed it can contribute immensely to diversification and inclusion for vulnerable communities," said Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The agency's "Economic Development in Africa Report 2017" focuses on tourism for transformative and inclusive growth.
Chantal Line Carpentier, chief of UNCTAD's New York office, said tourism export revenues tripled since 1998, from 14 billion U.S. dollars to nearly 47 billion dollars. Tourism now contributes to about 8.5 percent of the continent's gross domestic product (GDP), compared with 6.8 percent in 1998.
"African tourism is increasingly driven by Africans themselves due to a growing middle-income class," Carpentier told a press conference at UN Headquarters, adding that four out of 10 international tourists in Africa are from the continent itself.
"By 2026, tourism's direct contribution to GDP is forecast to surpass 121 billion U.S. dollars," she noted.
Highlighting some of the findings from the report, Carpentier said to realize the continent's economic growth, governments should take steps to liberalize air transport, promote free movement of persons, ensure currency convertibility and, crucially, recognise the value of African tourism and plan for it.
She added that the growing tourism sector offers opportunities for young people, who globally make up about half of the tourism labor force.
The sector is also heavily women-driven, with nearly one-third of jobs taken up by women, and nearly half in the hotel and restaurant sectors.