The event was organized by the Africa Travel Association (ATA) and hosted by New York University’s Africa House, as world leaders gathered in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly meetings. Nearly 200 people attended ATA’s signature US event, including representatives from the travel and tourism industry, the diplomatic community, NYU, the non-profit sector, and the media.
“This year’s event was the most successful Presidential Forum to date, with the participation of the most comprehensive group of global and regional tourism leaders,” said Edward Bergman, ATA Executive Director, “This important gathering provides a setting for tourism leaders from Africa and around the world to address key issues facing tourism development in Africa and to build strong strategic partnerships to make it happen.”
In his remarks, Mr. Bergman also announced the release of the second State of Tourism in Africa report, prepared by Africa House-New York University, the World Bank, and ATA. Citing UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) data, among other sources such as the China Tourism Academy, Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), and Expedia, the report revealed that Africa continued to show a growth trend in 2010 with an 8.8% increase in tourism arrivals numbering 63 million.
Program participants, included representatives from Chad, Egypt, The Gambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the African Union, alongside the UNWTO, WTTC, CTO, and African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA). CNN Chief Business Correspondent Ali Velshi moderated the event.
ATA President and Minister of Tourism&Culture of The Gambia Tourism, the Honorable Fatou Mas-Njie Jobe, reminded African states that the “possibilities of economic growth and development related to the tourism industry are not yet fully recognized or appreciated in Africa’s political corridors and public realms,” highlighting that collaboration between the government and private sector are vital. She continued, “ATA, through its partnerships with the AU and with other international and regional tourism bodies, like UNWTO, WTTC, CTO, ATTA, and NTA, can show each and every African nation and its people that ‘tourism is part of the solution, not the problem.’”
In a video address to the ATA forum, Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of UNWTO, stressed his commitment to ATA to promote tourism. He said, “UNWTO stands ready to help you promote Africa to the world and to make tourism thrive for Africa and its people.” He highlighted that “tourism is ever more recognized as a tool for development … at the UN level, as well as at the national level,” bringing jobs, investment, infrastructure, economic growth, and development.
The roundtable discussion focused on a number of key issues, including how travel advisories, security, and the media contribute to negative images of Africa; the increasing need to provide tailored services for different regional markets, like China and the Middle East; and the need for governments to create conducive environments for tourism growth. Discussants also focused on the importance of public-private sector cooperation.
African leaders who participated in the event included HE Dr. Ajaratou Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice President and Minister of Women’s Affairs, Republic of The Gambia; HE Amina Ali, Ambassador Extraordinary&Plenipotentiary, African Union; the Hon. Moussa Faki, Minister of Foreign Affairs and African Integration, Republic of Chad; the Hon. Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie, Minister of Tourism&Culture and ATA President, Republic of The Gambia; and the Hon. Ezekiel Maige, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, United Republic of Tanzania. They were joined by tourism experts, Mr. Mohamed Hegazy, Tourism Attaché, USA&Latin America, Egyptian Tourist Authority and Ms. Rica Rwigamba, Head of Tourism and Conservation Department, Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
Global tourism leaders included Mr. Marcio Favilla L. de Paula, Executive Director for Competitiveness, External Relations and Partnerships, UNWTO; Mr. Hugh Riley, Secretary General&CEO, CTO; Mr. David Scowsill, President&CEO, WTTC; and Mr. Nigel Vere Nicoll, Managing Director, ATTA.
The Tanzania Tourist Board presented their annual awards at the event. Ethiopian Airlines African Journeys received the 2011 Tour Operator Promotion Award; LuxuryWeb Magazine received the 2011 Web Travel Magazine Award; and South African Airways received the 2011 Supporting Airline Award.
The Egyptian Tourist Authority, as well as Tanzania National Parks, the Tanzania Tourist Board, and South African Airways, were event sponsors.