Windhoek – The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) says Southern African states must sharpen marketing strategies and deliberately focus on inter-regional travel to revive a sector reeling from COVID-19.
It is estimated that Southern Africa’s tourism sector lost about two million direct and indirect jobs and bled in excess of US$20 billion since the pandemic halted most international travel in 2020.
UNWTO Secretary-General Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, who was in Namibia this past week for a summit on strengthening tourism in Africa, said the public and private sectors should join hands to breathe new life into tourism. He also urged people to get COVID-19 vaccinations to facilitate quicker reopening of economies.
The summit in Windhoek was themed “Strengthening Brand Africa for the Recovery of the Tourism Sector”.
“There is a need for African tourism industry to look at the possibility of growing both the local and regional market to avert the potential challenges of the pandemic. The idea is to get Africans finding a solution to the challenges affecting the current African tourism market,” Mr Pololikashvili said.
Meanwhile, Namibian President Hage Geingob – who addressed the summit – called for concerted efforts to revive tourism and to boost SMEs.
“For many developed and developing countries, the tourism sector is a major source of employment, government revenue and foreign exchange earnings. Without this vital lifeline, many countries are experiencing a dramatic contraction in gross domestic product and a rise in unemployment and Namibia is no exception. Tourism, therefore, continues to be one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic and the outlook remains highly uncertain,” President Geingob said.
The Namibian leader noted that the world witnessed a 96 percent reduction in travel as countries closed borders as a pandemic control measure.
“Even though the encouraging news regarding the development of COVID-19 vaccines has boosted hopes for a recovery of tourism business and travel, challenges persist, with the sector expected to experience negative to zero growth until well into 2022. Due to limited access to vaccines in the developing world, the sector faces the potential of numerous stop/start cycles for some time. This will further damage business and traveller confidence, and business survival prospects,” President Geingob said.
He said it was not all doom and gloom.
“In Namibia, we commenced with our Tourism Revival Initiative Strategy in June 2020, which culminated in the development of Tourism Safety and Security Protocol Guidelines to safeguard the health of staff and clients engaged in tourism. This process was spearheaded by the Namibia Tourism Board in consultation with the private sector and reviewed by the UNWTO.
“During the planning stages of our Tourism Revival Initiative Strategy, the tourism sector has relied on domestic tourism, which has sustained jobs and businesses in some destinations,” he said.
ATB moves to Eswatini
Lilongwe – After being inactive for about two years, the African Tourism Board (ATB) has re-launched itself and will relocate its head offices from Johannesburg in South Africa to Eswatini.
The ATB is a global initiative to promote Africa as a viable tourism destination. Its primary agenda is to position Africa as a leading tourism destination through strategically integrated tourism development and marketing.
A certificate of incorporation granting the ATB authorisation to start working from Eswatini has been availed by the country’s Tourism Minister Moses Vilakati.
This week, ATB chair Mr Cuthbert Ncube said, “This is the time to bring down the barriers that separate the African states and promote the continent as a collective. Tourism must be used to bring people together and the first stop will be hosting a Culture Festival that will bring together Africa.”
He said the ATB would busy itself with rebranding Africa by spreading positive news about the continent, drawing attention to its diverse attractions.
In a media statement, Mr Ncube also said, “This is a brilliant decision by the board of this great organisation and today will be in the history as we navigate towards relocating to a pristine tourism destination with the DNA of cultural excellence that will ultimately facilitate a greater service delivery of tourism stewardship within the continent.”