Branding and promotion, foreign direct investment, human resources development and visa facilitation were among the key topics in focus at the VI Investment and Tourism Business Forum for Africa (INVESTOUR). 16 Tourism Ministers from Africa and the Middle East and experts from different areas attended the yearly Forum, held on the occasion of the International Tourism Fair (FITUR). The debates focused particularly on the need to work towards a stronger Brand Africa (Madrid, Spain, 29 January 2015).
Between 2000 and 2014, international tourist arrivals to Africa more than doubled, from 26 million to 56 million. Despite a challenging 2014, the region still grew 2% compared to 2013, and the future outlook remains positive with 134 million arrivals forecast by UNWTO for 2030.
INVESTOUR, a joint UNWTO, FITUR and Casa Africa initiative now in its sixth year, has become a central platform for companies and African tourism authorities to promote investment and commercial opportunities in the continent. This annual event is also a key forum to debate some of the most pressing issues affecting tourism in Africa.
“Supporting Africa´s tourism is supporting the region´s economic growth and employment, bringing immense opportunities for development”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “In order to fulfil Africa’s tourism potential, key challenges such as infrastructure development, travel facilitation and the full usage of modern technologies to maximize marketing and services needs to be addressed. INVESTOUR facilitates fruitful partnerships that helps transform these challenges into opportunities for a brighter future in Africa and a more inclusive growth for all”.
“We always hear that the future holds many opportunities for Africa, and the future is now“, said the Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism of Spain, José Manuel Soria López, in reference to the many tourism prospects in the region. Luis Padrón, Director General of Casa África, was equally positive, highlighting the region’s democratic and economic advancements. “I am sure that cooperation and the ´know how´ of the Spanish companies, many of them world leaders in tourism, can be of great support for joint projects in Africa”, said Mr. Padrón.
Participants concluded that while governance across the region is steadily advancing, the sector needs further recognition in national agendas in order to secure much needed financing, namely for investment in infrastructure, training and statistics. Other issues highlighted were the need to increase visa facilitation across the region, the pressing need to efficiently promote positive stories about tourism in Africa and the urgency of building a strong brand for Africa.
Attending the Forum were the Ministers of Tourism of Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Secretary of State for Tourism of Guinea-Bissau, alongside experts from the African Development Bank (ADB) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Training and Development Institute among others.
As in previous editions, the business-to-business (B2B) session brought together 140 tourism initiatives from 34 African countries to meet with 20 companies from around the world.