The Honorable Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Walter Mzembi, said African tourism leaders must join together with one voice to rally support for tourism with government and the private sector.
Speaking at the ministers’ roundtable at the Africa Travel Association’s 37th annual congress in Victoria Falls, Minister Mzembi said: “Governments must take leadership of this sector, because tourism works best when it comes to cross-sectoral cooperation since ‘tourism is everything.’ We also need to invest in the industry and work closely together to assure our position as a critical employment and revenue generator. To receive the attention we deserve, we need to speak in one voice.”
ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman started the session by presenting an update on the state of Africa tourism. He pointed out that the rate of international overnight visitors to Africa has grown faster than the rest of the world in the last decade, with arrivals to Africa growing from 4 to 7 percent. Despite this growth, he said receipts per arrival have not grown on par with the rest of the world.
During the 2-hour session, attended by more than 200 delegates, the participating ministers emphasized the importance of strengthening continental and regional partnerships and involving the private sector. Everyone agreed that the benefits of tourism could be strengthened if Africa governments and the private sector cooperated on a number of issues, including connectivity, visas, branding and packaging. The importance of integrating local community into tourism programs was also stressed.
The Minister from Uganda, Professor Ephraim Kamuntu, Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Heritage, said, “Africa is clearly not sharing in the global percentage of tourism benefits.” He listed a number of economic benefits from tourism and called on the ministers and the audience to “work together to get Africa its far share of global tourism.”
Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Namibia’s Minister of Tourism, spoke about the importance of empowering and involving local communities in tourism development. She also highlighted the need to collaborate as a region on packaging and product development.
Sylvie Annick Mazoungou, Minister of Development of Tourism and Handicraft of the Central African Republic, spoke about how investment in tourism development in the post-conflict country will enable it to grow and be on par with its neighbors.
Deputy Minister Baba Jamal, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, emphasized that tourism helps alleviate poverty and creates jobs. He also spoke about the importance of engaging the African diaspora in tourism.
N’Daan Gnazou, Togo’s Minister of Tourism spoke about the need to set up a regional visa to encourage free movement for travelers between countries. He also spoke about the importance of strengthening regional organizations.
The Zimbabwean Minister also spoke about the impact of the Arab Spring on “Brand Africa,” pointing out that what happens to one nation inevitably affects other African nations. He said, “We need to speak in one voice and in solidarity with one another, during good times, as well as in challenging times. Everyone goes to ‘Africa,’ not just one country, so we need to present ourselves as ‘Brand Africa.’”
Olivia Muchena, Zimbabwe’s Minister for Women’s Affairs, participated in the roundtable, which was moderated by K. Kaseke, Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.
Government representatives from Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania participated in the audience.