Obama effect and World Cup boost Africa tourism

A double boost from Obama’s Kenyan ancestry plus the 2010 World Cup is helping to give African tourism an unprecedented boost and buck the global tourism downturn, according to the head of the UN World Tourism Organisation.

“There has been a shift in the way people look at Africa,” says the head of the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai.

“Africa is now considered a very serious destination for travellers from the major generating markets,” he told a conference in Madrid.

UNWTO last week released tourism figures that showed Africa had “bucked the global trend” in tourism in 2009, being the only continent to experience an increase in the number of international tourist arrivals last year - with traveller numbers rising by 5%.

This compared to fall of 4% worldwide, attributed to the economic crisis and the swine flu pandemic.

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However Rifai said Africa’s share of the travel and tourism market was just 5% - or around 50 million tourists from a total of nearly 900 million.

The African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA) says this year’s World Cup 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.

Meanwhile the Kenya’s tourist board says that the fact that President Obama’s father was from the country has led to an increase in American tourists.