DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Tanzanian Vice-President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, on Friday, urged African countries to be innovative in attracting more tourists to visit the continent.

Opening the 3rd Edition of the Swahili International Tourism Expo, in the capital, Dar es Salaam, Suluhu said, African countries should now find ways to penetrate the market and attract more tourists to Africa.

She urged exhibitors and visitors from member states of the East African Community and Southern African Development Community, to take full advantage of the three-day tourism expo, to promote their tourism businesses and intra-Africa tourism initiatives, that will see Africans travel within the continent.

A recent report released by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, showed that, intra- Africa tourism grew from 34 to 44 percent of the total number of Africa tourists visiting other African countries, between 2007 and 2017.

Suluhu said, she was optimistic that the percentage of African tourists visiting other African countries will grow up to 50 percent over the next 10 years.

"I am honoured to be here to witness these collective successes for Africa, and I would like to congratulate those African countries that are participating in this expo," she said.

Suluhu said, this year's expo will provide the Tanzania tourism sector and other exhibitors, an opportunity to delve and engage in meaningful discussions, that will end up identifying opportunities in the sector.

"I wish to assure you that the government is fully committed to the successful development of tourism in Tanzania and will continue to ensure that there is a better socio-economic environment of this development to take place," said the Vice-President.

According to her, tourism is one of the leading economic sectors in the country, where the number of tourist arrivals reached 1.2 million in 2016, with total expenditure amounting to 2.1 million U.S. dollars.

Devota Mdachi, Tanzania's Tourist Board Managing Director, said, the tourism expo has attracted over 150 exhibitors from various countries.

She said, over 180 tourism agents were also visiting the expo, with the aim of exchanging businesses and finding areas for investments.

The Swahili International Tourism Expo focuses on inbound and outbound travel business to and within Africa.

The event showcases the travel possibilities in Tanzania, within and beyond the well-known attractions in 16 National Parks, around Mount Kilimanjaro and on the beautiful beaches on the Island of Zanzibar.

Tourism is Tanzania's largest foreign exchange earner since 2012, contributing an average of 2 billion U.S. dollars annually, which is equivalent to 25 percent of all exchange earnings, according to government data.

Tourism also contributes to more than 17 percent of the national gross domestic product, creating more than 1.5 million jobs.