Regional insecurity and social unrest are some of the major challenges currently facing inbound tourism in Burkina Faso. While the nation’s economy is slowly recovering from internal civil unrest and military demonstrations that took place in 2011 and 2012, its travel and tourism industry also underwent a very difficult period due to an ongoing political crisis in neighbouring Mali. Internal violent demonstrations as well as insecurity in the region had a negative effect on the number of tourists who visited Burkina Faso in 2012. The deep decline in Mali’s travel and tourism industry has been damaging to Burkina Faso because the country was a highlight of travel to West Africa, where tour operators drew in tourists to Burkina Faso by offering package tours involving multiple components and locations in Mali.
Handicrafts and culture remained the major contributors to the development of travel and tourism in Burkina Faso. The country has a strong tradition of modern arts and crafts, such as woodcarvings, jewellery and pottery. Burkina Faso is also benefiting from the dynamism of its leadership in culture, where international artists and tourists are drawn to the country each year to attend world-renowned cultural festivals, such as CNS (culture), FESPACO (film festival), NAK (atypical nights), SIAO (arts and crafts), FESTIMA (Festival of Arts and Masks) and SITHO (tourism and hotels). Visitors are also attracted to the country’s cultural and tourist sites, such as the Ruins of Loropeni and Laongo (village of granite sculpture).
Air transport accounts for the largest percentage share of passenger transportation to Burkina Faso. This category of transportation remained the most preferred mode of travel to the country over the review period and this was partly due to arrival of Kenya Airways and Turkish Airlines. Kenya Airlines is one of the leading sub-Saharan air operators and started flights services to Burkina in mid-2011. Turkish Airlines, which has the world’s fifth-largest flight network, commenced flight operations in late 2012. The arrival of these two major airlines will help develop air transport and also raise the profile of travel and tourism as a whole in the country. The expansion of these airlines’ networks in Burkina Faso will further boost visitor arrivals and also help create jobs and investment in the country. A wider range of business opportunities will also be available as a result.
Burkina Faso is home to several international hotel chains. Over the last few years of the review period, several hoteliers embarked on strategies to improve their quality of service in a bid to establish and maintain better relationships with potential guests. Some of the strategies include the fight against child sex tourism. The country’s hotel infrastructure is greatly concentrated in the capital city of Ouagadougou, with business travellers accounting for the majority of clients. Other hotels of good quality can be found in the second-largest city of Bobo-Dioulasso, as well as near major cultural and tourist sites. Hotels continued to account for the largest share of travel accommodation in 2012 in terms of both volume and current value.
Burkina Faso has a lot to offer tourists regardless of the minor role played by its travel and tourism industry. The nation’s strong arts and crafts scene, as well as cultural heritage, are features that will continue to attract visitors in the future; however, there is need to develop its cultural and tourism potential to generate more foreign currency earnings from tourists. Furthermore, amid ongoing insecurity in the region, Burkina Faso also needs to do more to promote and market the country as a tourist destination. Efforts should be made to mitigate the impact of security on travel and tourism growth in the region. Fostering links with peaceful neighbours with a stable political and social climate, such as Ghana, could boost future growth of its travel and tourism industry.
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