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UN agency cautions against potential tourism tax in Africa

By Philip Mwakio | May 19th 2014

By  Philip Mwakio

Kenya: The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has opposed attempts by the African Union (AU) to impose taxes on air transport and hotel stays in Africa.

Secretary-General Taleb Rifai expressed serious concerns about the negative impact of the move, currently being discussed among members of AU on Africa’s tourism sector.

He noted that tourism is one of the main contributors to Africa’s balance of payments, a source of livelihood for millions in the continent and one of the sectors where the region has a major competitive advantage in international markets.

 “A tourism tax in Africa is a threat to the competiveness of the region and to all African economies, which  have tourism as a key pillar to their development,” stated Mr Rifai.

He said any decision on the possible imposition of a tourism tax in Africa should be carefully evaluated as to the negative impact it would have on tourism demand, economic growth and jobs.

This concern was echoed by the Ministers of Tourism of the region attending the 56th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa, held in Angola last month.

Participants identified increased taxation as one of the main obstacles to the sustainable development of tourism and aviation in the region.

Air travel cost

Connectivity is one of the major barriers to Africa’s tourism growth and a further increase in the cost of air travel would jeopardise the need to increase intra and interregional air access across Africa.

International tourism in Africa has been growing steadily in recent years with the continent receiving 56 million tourists last year, up from 26 million in 2000.

According a Kenyan hotelier, Lydia Dentewo, imposition of a tourism tax in Africa would affect not only the tourism sector, but also African economies as a whole.

Dentewo, who is general manager of Lake Bogoria Spa Resort in the Great Rift Valley, said tourism establishments can ill afford new taxes at this time, particularly in Kenya where the industry is facing many challenges including terrorism threats.


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