Intra-African tourism key to unlock the continents potential, Balala

The formation of the African Tourism Organization (ATO) will boost accessibility to African tourism destinations through the single air market strategy which will facilitate intra-Africa travel.

The Tourism Cabinet Secretary (CS), Najib Balala said that ATO is going to change the narrative of the biased publicity done against Africans by boosting tourism among African countries.

Speaking on Tuesday in Nairobi during the African Union Sub Committee meeting on Tourism, Balala said that the continent had been unfairly branded as the image of Ebola, chaos and diseases and challenged African countries to change that negative image.

It is unfair when a small incidence happens and it is blown out of proportion to be the image of the whole continent, he explained.

We have to package our product and I believe we have the best products from the beaches of Gambia, to the delta of Okavango in Botswana. Others are the Pyramids of Egypt, the beautiful city of Marrakesh in Morocco, the Wild beast migration of the Maasai Mara, the great lakes of Uganda, the Gorillas in Rwanda and the Victoria Falls in Zambia. We have all these but they have not been packaged well and even appreciated by Africans themselves, said Balala.

The CS said that Africa was rising because as it had the youngest population in the universe, adding, Our middle class is growing faster and probably we should consider intra-Africa travel instead of depending on people from outside Africa.

At the moment we have only 68 million tourists who visit Africa which is a small percentage compared to the global tourism numbers which stand at 1.3 billion, said Balala.

He added that currently there are 21 million people employed by tourism in Africa with the target being 100 million by 2030.

We need low cost airlines to operate in the continent and make it cheap to travel intra-Africa than it is outside of the continent, said the CS.

Chair of the African Union Committee on Tourism and the Minister for Tourism and Hospitality Republic of Zimbabwe, Prisca Mupfumira said that the continental tourism framework will provide a structure toward the African Union Agenda 2063.

With international tourist arrivals growing by 7% percent in the region, Africa is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the world. Between the years 2000 and 2007 international tourist arrivals increased from 26 million to 62 million and by 2030 this figure could reach 134 million arrivals. However, this is just 10 percent of the global market share and we can do a lot to boost the numbers, said Mupfumira.

She noted that structural barriers continue to hinder progress in Africa and the establishment of the Tourism sub-Committee on infrastructure and energy would provide opportunity to address cross cutting issues that impede the growth of tourism.

Source: Kenya News Agency