The African travel and tourism industry has the potential to attract considerable investment if the continent works together as one destination, develops a more environmentally sustainable approach and enhances air connectivity. That was the overriding message of Tourism Ministers from across Africa during the International Tourism and Investment Corporation (ITIC) WTM African Tourism Investment Summit in Cape Town, South Africa mid-April.
Ministers of Tourism of Botswana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Eswatini and South Africa called upon African countries to unite as a single brand and promote tourism through a common marketing campaign. This campaign could be kickstarted at the African Carnival in Botswana which will be held in September.
Close to 1.3 billion Africans are keen to discover their continent’s 54 different countries, gastronomies, music, and cultures. However, to achieve a flourishing regional African tourism industry, several obstacles need to be addressed. These obstacles include visas and air access, amongst others.
Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife of Kenya, explained that only 26 African cities are currently connected through international flights. If African countries develop a co-ordinated and harmonised COVID-19 regional framework, improve their air connectivity, and open the skies, travel will become more accessible and affordable for African citizens.
“Africa drew 70 million tourists to its shores in 2019. We can get to 200 million visitors easily if we address these key issues”, stated Najib Balala.
For her part, Philda Kereng, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism of Botswana, pointed out that green tourism should be fostered. “We have to conserve and preserve national resources, on the base of which we are developing and serving products”. She highlighted the fact that her country has revised its tourism policy to make it resilient to climate change. “Going green is the way for tourism development that is based on the natural resources,” she added.
The Chairman of ITIC and former Secretary-General of UNWTO, Dr Taleb Rifai, set the tone for further discussion panels by saying that “Africa is the future – without doubt. We’re all Africans. We all came out of Africa but Africa cannot be what it should be if the continent doesn’t work together.”
On the third and last day of the Summit, tourism project owners/ developers (from Botswana, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, South Africa, Zanzibar) were able to connect with investors. ITIC will continue to provide consultancy support for additional capital raising.
ITIC Group CEO Ibrahim Ayoub welcomed the collaboration from industry leaders at the Summit and called for the establishment of a Tourism Resilience fund to cater for future crises and to assist businesses while saving jobs.
He thanked all the Ministers, Speakers, Moderators, sponsors for their valuable contribution, with a special word to members of the audience for their participation and their successful networking with the different stakeholders.