Edited by: @TheOnlineLady
Series 05 of Goge Africa’s “Cross-Sectoral Collaboration for Tourism & Economic Development” brought together investors and destination representatives – projecting the potential of their destinations – and expert tourism practitioners across Africa and other parts of the world. They undertook a comparative analysis of the tourism landscape in their different climes and the result of the event, is predicted to birth huge economic prosperity for practitioners in the tourism value chain and other sectors in Africa.
H.E. Amb. Azanaw Tadesse Abreha – Ethiopian Ambassador to Nigeria – who led his country’s delegation, reeled out Ethiopia’s tourism attractions to the participants which include: 8 UNESCO Heritage sites; Addis Ababa’s tourist experiences – thriving culture, nightlife, traditional cuisine and notably the landmark cultural museum sheltering paleontological hominid remains dating 5.5 million years. His speech was a testimonial of the country’s moniker, for example the land of origins like Gambela national park – the 2nd largest centre of antelope migration; historical and religious architectures such as the orthodox churches, Holy Trinity Cathedral and the annual ground mosque; varieties of coffee, etc.
These potential he stated, has made the government identify tourism as a fulcrum of the economy. To boost travel inflow to the country, more tourist attractions are being developed by the government. Some of them are: 3 state-of the-art parks in and around Addis Ababa, a Unity park at the National Palace featuring 6 attractions, and an ultramodern park inaugurated last week. He also remarked that through Goge Africa’s media networks, Ethiopian tourism will be showcased to world. Delightedly, he shared Ethiopia’s recent ranking in Forbes as “One of the rising tourism destinations of the post-Covid world”.
The Ethiopian Government, according to Mr. Aschalew Tadesse – Director of Investment Promotion and Marketing Directorate at the Ethiopian Investment Commission – is willing to extend a hand of friendship to willing investors across her numerous industrial tourism offerings. This commitment of support, he mentioned, comes in form of incentives ranging from income tax holidays, free duty on all capital goods, land lease which lasts for a period of 99 years.
The commission, he said, provides a one-stop service to investors through provision of information and assistance in acquiring documentation necessary for government regulation. Conclusively, he pledged to assign expertise and smooth communicationwith investors interested in Ethiopia.
Stella Fubara-Obinwa – Director of Int’l Operations, Dubai Tourism – took the participants on the charted terrain of Dubai, elucidation it as the fastest growing tourism destination in the world. Achieving this enviable height, she asserted requires intentional packaging of the product.
Achieving a viable tourism industry, she stated, requires several requirements. At the heart of these requirements is personnel recruitment which she emphasized should be driven by passion, as hiring teams without passion is a recipe for failure.
Other conditions she noted are: effective regulation and availability of hotels to suit diverse travelers’ needs, an efficient transportation system, divergent touristic experiences including food, effective influencing of media perception, and integrating people into tourism. The resultant effect will spur the creativity of the citizenry of such destinations. She also opined that Nigeria has the strongest influencers in Africa, in Nollywood. This, she noted, can be used by the respective states to drive tourists to their respective destinations.
Conclusively, she advised all destinations to ensure they are compliant with sustainable safety regulations in the face of the virulent COVID-19 virus.
In his presentation, Thekiso Ralolojane – Regional Head, West Africa, South African Tourism – mentioned that the comparative advantage held by South Africa is its unique proposition to tourists which is backed by research. South Africa provides an alternative to Kenya’s wildlife offering and priding coastal beaches rated the best in the world.
He referenced South Africa’s thriving tourism link to her world class transport system which connects tourists to all destinations. He also commented on her good relationship with stakeholders and her extensive collaboration with relevant agencies, which has guaranteed hitch-free travel for tourists. He also stated that the South African Tourism Board is committed to eliminating bottlenecks hampering travel to South Africa. A strong measure being imbibed is the increase in staff strength of the South African embassy as well as other recommendations of the visiting committee. He ended his speech by announcing the opening up of South Africa to tourists by President, H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa.
Taking a break from Africa and other parts of the world to #DestinationNigeria, Rivers state’s contingent led by the creative veteran, Yibo Koko – DG, Rivers Tourism Development Agency – informed the audience that the state government is transitioning from an oil-dependent economy to a creative-centered economy, with focus on the rich cultural heritage of the Rivers people powered through the avalanche of opportunities available in the digital space. The heart of domestic tourism, he declared, is generated from community tourism abundant in variety – food, dress, dance and a host of other cultural features. Taking a step down memory lane, he recalled that at the Black Cultural Festival dubbed Festac’77 which saw an assembly of Africans residing within Africa and in the Diaspora, Rivers state drew the attention of Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya’s then incumbent president) with their aquatic cultural performance. This cultural identity, he noted, is what the state government intends to leverage in providing opportunities for small and medium scale businesses to thrive.
Contributing to the discourse, Hon. Adebisi Obawale – Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Osun State – observed that the bedrock for collaboration is endowment. Osun state, he noted, has tourist attractions, arable land, minerals and the environment necessary to steer collaboration between the government and prospective investors. Further highlighting this, he quipped that the state boasts of one of Africa’s best medical facilities, OAUTH. Osun, due to its strategic position, witnesses the influx of tourists from cultural, religious and adventure tourism. Other tourism attractions in the state include the Marian mountain and the Osun-Osogbo grove which attracts local and international tourists annually in celebration of the fertility goddess, Osun. The Olumirin waterfalls is also another attraction open to investors for transformation as a foremost tourist destinations.
He assured participants and investors that the government has invested in road networks to boost access to these destinations. This is further complemented by indigenes that are receptive, thus, guaranting the safety of investors’ investments.
Recognizing the recent COVID-19 health crisis, Didier Bayeye – African Tourism Expert and Marketing Manager of Sun International – acknowledged that it has affected the confidence level of tourists. The effect, he observed, is a shift in travel demand by tourists from luxury to safety. Gleaning from the measures implemented by Sun International, he stated that organizations can build tourists confidence by capacity building of staff on Covid-19 symptoms, investment in infrastructural facilities to enhance safe staff-tourists interaction without compromising social distancing, kitting of staff with masks, and maintenance of strict health protocols within the destinations. These measures he remarked, if not implemented by destinations, could backfire on business.
Efetobore Awhana – Founder, Nigeria Travel Week – in his submission, lamented that tour operators are the weakest link in Nigeria’s tourism drive. Noting their responsibility as critical, he hinted that irrespective of a plethora of attractions and creatively communicated messages, Nigeria’s tourism drive will remain in the back pedal without strengthening tour operators. Alluding to the tour operator as a manufacturer, he recommended that for Nigeria tourism to take a leap, there is a need for professionalism of tour operators which will strengthen the link.
Lamenting, he said though Nigeria has a high traveling population, it is not considered an ideal holiday destination. However, he expressed hope saying that the initiatives on ground will help to re-write the narrative.
Chronicling her experience as a tour operator in Nigeria, Princess Ime Udo – CEO, Leadway Tours – commented that Nigerian tour operators were driven by sheer passion to create unique and diverse experiences across Nigeria’s amazing attractions. However, unlocking why this dynamism has not translated to tourists inflow, she pointed that the environment for excellence derivable through relevant support, is inexistent. This she further noted has stood against the transformation of these attractions to destinations. The Federation Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), she emphatically stated, has commendably been at the vanguard of advocacy and collaboration between the government and private tour operators towards bringing to fore, Nigeria’s tourism potential.
Relating the South African tour operators experience to the participants, Sonto Mbonabi – MD, Nando Travels – hinted that government support has been the backbone for South African tour operations. This support, she mentioned comes in the form of access to information, marketing size and budget. Her first trade trip, she recalled, was to Nigeria in 2008 before the world cup. This trip and subsequent trips across the world to promote South African destinations, were highly subsidized for tour operators. With the presence of these incentives to tour operators, interactions with other tour operators across the world at trade exhibitions, packaging experience tailored to the needs of tourists, has made tourism in South Africa a seamless process.
With the conversations steered and the lessons garnered through these deliberations, Nigerian tourism (through collaboration with the government and all stakeholders) is set to re-position the country and indeed Africa’s abundant potential as a thriving travel destination.
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