A significant development has emerged out of the continent this year that could push Africa’s tourism industry back onto its pre-COVID growth trajectory faster than anticipated, while catapulting it into an innovative future.
The game changer is the US National Basketball Association’s (NBA) launch of its first professional basketball league to operate outside North America: the Basketball Africa League (BAL).
Valued at US$1 billion and now backed by private investors such as former NBA players Dikembe Mutombo, Grant Hill, Luol Deng, and more recently, former US President Barack Obama — NBA Africa is poised to be a game changer for the continent as a tourism destination.
“After about a decade of activity, the NBA reflected on what we’ve done in Africa, and the decision was that there was significantly more opportunity that we could tap into on the continent in terms of basketball, in terms of commercial partnerships, in terms of social and economic impact,” said Victor Williams, CEO of NBA Africa.
The spillover effect from this long-term collaborative NBA and investor-backed venture has already opened the door to next-level tourism collaborations amid a pandemic. It’s showing the African tourism sector that its potential remains untapped.
NBA Africa and BAL executives are well aware of the impact that one of America’s most recognised brands will have on Africa’s tourism sector long term, particularly once the annual BAL tournament takes its original format of being hosted across multiple African countries.
Approximately 500 international guests from the NBA’s immediate circle travelled to the continent, lured by the new initiative in spite of having to endure quarantine, testing and city curfews in May that stunted ancillary activities.
For Naledi Khabo, Africa Tourism Association CEO, the BAL is sure to positively impact regional and local businesses which will benefit from an influx of teams and their fans.
“Beyond developing the sport, the BAL is driving economic development and in essence creating new ecosystems around infrastructure development, job creation,” said Khabo. “And the BAL platform will not only spotlight sports but the inherent intersections will spotlight Africa’s innovation and creative across fashion, music, art, culture.”
This NBA linkage to tourism is likely to be replicated across the continent as NBA Africa expands its footprint and forges new public-private partnerships.
“Kigali is a great example of how it can work. Our hope and ambition is that this will be replicated in many places on the continent,” said NBA Africa’s Williams.
“Going forward, we would want to host the BAL games in multiple cities, and we would hope that every time we bring a game to the city, it helps to sell that destination from a tourism perspective, it helps to upgrade the infrastructure, upgrade the operating standards and really position that location to reap the benefits of increased tourism.”
In a post-Covid world, BAL’s vision would be that in addition to basketball games, there would be cultural events happening at the same time — music concerts, fashion shows, film festivals and art exhibitions, all to support and to showcase the creative economy within Africa and that too should help position those locations to be more attractive, Williams added.
The second season of the Basketball Africa League is in the works. Other African cities are under consideration to host the tournament, Williams said, while unable to disclose which at this time.
“As sports tourism remains one of the fastest growing sectors in the industry, ATA is looking forward to working with the BAL destinations across the continent,” said Africa Tourism Association’s Khabo.
“BAL’s global reach and platform is an excellent branding opportunity for DMOs to spotlight their destinations and offerings. The visibility for host destinations will also showcase our ability to host large scale events which will favorably impact the MICE sector.”
Full article available at https://skift.com/2021/08/27/nbas-big-africa-push-could-be-a-catalyst-for-a-new-tourism-future/