African tourism ministers to work together to revitalize industry

By James Tasamba

KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – African tourism ministers pledged Thursday to work together to revitalize the continent’s tourism industry, which has been battered by COVID-19.

Meeting at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Brand Africa Summit in the Namibian capital Windhoek, they committed to establish a new narrative for tourism across the continent in order to better realize tourism's potential to drive the recovery process, according to a communiqué issued after the summit.

The summit was also attended by public and private sector leaders from across the continent.

UNWTO and its members promised to work with the African Union and the private sector to promote the continent to new global audiences with globally positive, people-centered storytelling and effective branding.

Tourism has been recognized as an essential pillar of sustainable and inclusive development for Africa, but the sudden and massive fall in tourist numbers impacted jobs and economies.

“African destinations must take the lead in celebrating and promoting the continent's vibrant culture, youthful energy and entrepreneur spirit and its rich gastronomy,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

The meeting endorsed the Windhoek Pledge on advocating ‘Brand Africa,’ under which member countries will engage both public and private sector stakeholders as well as local communities to build a new, inspiring narrative for tourism across the continent.

Speaking earlier at the summit, Pololikashvili noted that Africa still remains one of the world's most attractive tourist destinations and should find ways of dealing with the rising number of cases from the pandemic in order to gradually restart tourism.

He also observed that Africa is a place of incredible cultural and natural diversity but wondered why the continent’s tourism potential is yet to be fully realized.

Issues of safety and security for tourists and the cost and ease of travel between African destinations were cited among the factors holding back Africa’s tourism potential.

“One key factor is low brand awareness among global tourists. This is why we placed advocating for Brand Africa as one of the priorities of the UNWTO Agenda for Africa,” Pololikashvili said.