TOURISM projects can contribute significantly to poverty alleviation in Africa and more innovative approaches are needed to foster regional partnerships and resource mobilisation to develop the sector, African Ministers of Tourism have said.
Tourism is regarded as a low hanging fruit with the potential to drive sustainable development and laying the groundwork for stakeholders to build on tourism’s opportunities by changing policies.
According to the United Nations, the sector can make a meaningful and substantial contribution to achieving sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda. Regional governments have since been called to establish and enforce inclusive and integrated policy frameworks for sustainable tourism development while the private sector needs to also demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in core business models and value chains.
In a statement following a United Nations World Tourism Organisations (UNWTO) 61st Commission for Africa indaba held in Abuja, Nigeria early this month, the Ministers of Tourism stressed the importance of correct tourism measurement and partnerships for improved policy making.
“Participants underscored how tourism projects can contribute to poverty alleviation, the importance of finding innovative approaches to developing tourism in the region, and the need to find and foster new partnerships and resources to develop the sector,” reads the statement.
Against the backdrop of the growth of international tourism in Africa, the ministers said tourism’s overall economic impact needs to be measured accurately in order for tourism strategies to effectively contribute to national economies. The ministerial dialogue addressed the significance of collecting and compiling quantitative and qualitative data, as well as the importance of commitments from national stakeholders and institutional partnerships for a rigorous tourism statistics system.
“The priorities of my mandate have been formed by listening to the needs of our member states and include the crucial targets of creating more and better tourism jobs, improving tourism education and fostering innovation,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.
“We need to build tight links between public and private sectors for tourism to transform growth across the continent, and for the benefit of its people.”
The meeting was attended by the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, who stated that “Nigeria has great potentials for tourism and investment”, underscoring the relevance of the sector, both regarding its contribution to sustainable development and its role to further diversify the economy and increase social resilience.
“Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development”, was the theme of this year’s seminar. The meeting included a ministerial dialogue on the importance of tourism statistics under the topic “Better measure, better manage”. The Commission for Africa attracted 18 tourism ministers from the region and key tourism stakeholders from 36 countries.
In this context, the need for establishing a Statistical Framework for the Measurement of Sustainable Tourism (MST) was addressed. This framework includes environmental, social and cultural tourism components geared towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The next African Commission meeting will take place during the second quarter of 2019.
Meanwhile in its vision of advancing sustainability through tourism, the UNWTO has released its flagship publication ‘Tourism for Development’ in which it calls for greater awareness of sustainability in tourism policies and business practices as well as in tourist behaviour.
“Tourism for Development’ provides concrete recommendations on how to use tourism as an effective means for achieving sustainable development. It shows that tourism has a global reach and has positive effects on many other sectors. Not only does the sector spearhead growth, it also improves the quality of people’s lives, supports environmental protection, champions diverse cultural heritage and strengthens peace in the world,” said the UNWTO.
“Moreover, if well planned and managed, tourism can effectively and directly contribute to the shift towards more sustainable lifestyles and consumption and production patterns. But to get there the tourism sector must, as an agent of positive change, make evidence-based decisions that ensure a consistent contribution to sustainable development.”