Tourism in Africa will tremendously improve if the continent’s image is promoted by regional blocs rather than individual countries, experts have said as reported in The New Times, Rwanda’s Leading English Daily.
The idea was mooted yesterday at the World Export Development Forum. The two-day Forum, organized by the International Trade Centre, closed yesterday in Kigali.
At a session dubbed, “Tourism for development: opportunities for SME trade,” experts assessed the stereotypes and generalized negative connotations about Africa, arguing that tackling these challenges through collective blocs would pay off by attracting more tourists.
“Seychelles did not face the Ebola epidemic like some countries in West Africa did. Not even our neighbors faced Ebola. However, tourists to our country have decreased,” Alain St. Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, said.
“Many people in the West still harbor ignorant opinions about Africa and they do not define us according to our borderlines. We may have our national tourism brands intact, but we need to develop regional brands to attract tourists and to counter the negative beliefs of some people who think that an epidemic in one part can affect the entire continent.”
His view was echoed by the Abdou Jobe, the Gambian minister for trade and integration, who said individual nations should not compete for tourists since they share similar natural and social attractions.
“We should not compete for tourists among ourselves in Africa. We need to groom the African cake and present it to the world. We have very many similar attractions and we should showcase as one,” he said.
“Secondly, before we ask others to come visit us, we should first carry out visits among ourselves. We should first appreciate our natural and biodiversity attractions before the rest of the world does.”
Pascal Lamy, the Chairman of World Committee on Tourism Ethics at the United Nations World Trade Organization, commended the single tourist visa between Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda, as an initiative that will pay off by easing the costs and procedures required by tourists.
A single tourist visa for the three countries took effect in January 2014, eliminating national requirements for visa applications and enabling tourists to move within the three countries without restrictions.
Under the single visa, a tourist to the three countries pays US$100 at the country of entry or the respective foreign missions abroad. Previously, Uganda and Kenya charged $50, while it cost $40 in Rwanda.
“Other blocs should follow suit. The single tourist visa was a brilliant idea. What public authorities should do now is to ensure that they connect their most important tourist sites with modern infrastructure, such as internet connections and air strips, so that life can be made easier for tourists,” Lamy said.
Rwanda’s tourism revenues hit $251 million in 2011, representing 25.5 per cent increase from the previous year.
The figure rose to $293.6 million from $281.8 million in 2012.