Partnerships between industry & gov’ts key to tourism growth in Africa – Grandcourt

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She is perhaps the most powerful woman championing Africa’s tourism on the global stage. Meet Elcia Grandcourt, the Regional Director for Africa at the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

We had a chat with where she affirmed her position on why she thinks governments and industry need to collaborate to drive successes in Africa’s tourism sector. She also touched on a wide array of issues concerning her personal life, her work at UNWTO, tourism in Africa and a lot more.

Read the full conversation below:

VA: Who is Elcia Grandcourt?
EG: “First and foremost I am a proud daughter of the Seychelles and of Africa who has committed her life to being a practitioner in the tourism industry. I am honoured to work every day to be able to contribute towards sustainable tourism development especially in Africa. I began my tourism career studying Hotel Management in Singapore at the Singapore Hotel Association and Education Centre (SHATEC). I also hold a Master in Dynamics of Cooperation, Conflicts and Negotiation in International Relations and Diplomacy.
Upon joining the world of work I have had the opportunity of occupying various positions in operations, reservations and sales mainly in hotels, including leading international brands such as Le Meridien and Hilton Worldwide Resorts. I have also worked with the Seychelles national airline and destination management companies before joining the public sector through The Seychelles Tourism Board where I occupied the post of Chief Executive Officer prior to joining UNWTO.
People who know me know they can trust me to be a hard-working and determined person who strives to achieve the best out of life. Outside of work I enjoy cooking, photography and spending time with family. Most importantly, I adore my time with my boys – I am a proud mother of two great sons whom I love very dearly.”

VA: How do you manage the busy schedule of your work with family?
EG: “Over the years I have learnt to balance my professional and personal life. By setting goals, prioritising and also dedicating my energy where it is most needed. Striking a balance between the two is easier said than done but with the right support, love, devotion, understanding and determination I have been able to dedicate time for both my kids and in pursuing my profession.”

VA: Your profile gives vivid accounts of your deep knowledge of the tourism industry. What will you say inspired you in choosing tourism as a career?
EG: “Tourism is the pillar of the economy of my home country Seychelles and in most Seychellois household there are one or more members likely to be working in this sector of the economy. My family was no exception as my mother has worked in the hospitality sector her whole career. These experiences and surroundings have influenced to an extent my desire to pursue my studies in this field and which have brought me to follow a career path in the tourism industry. It is a sector where over the years I have gained considerable experience and expertise which has enabled me to grow as a professional in the industry. Every day I am thankful for how my working in tourism has given me the world, literally.”

VA: What is it like to be working at the UNWTO?
EG: “It is with great humility that I am honoured with a responsibility which I find excitingly challenging and deeply gratifying, especially when we are able to support our member states in realizing the economic potential that resides in the tourism sector, whether through policy advice, but mostly through projects whereby we know it will help to create inclusive jobs and make an impact on people’s livelihoods. It has also broadened my knowledge especially through the various encounters with people of different cultures and background.”

VA: What has been your challenge(s) in the course of your work?
EG: “Challenges will always exist especially in a sector where the dynamics are ever-changing as it could be related to natural or manmade disasters, pandemics, crises such as security attacks, lack of infrastructure, connectivity and more but importantly is having the right tools and policy framework available and to be prepared to address them. That said investment in the tourism sector is an area that still requires more effort from both the public and private sector in order to be able to tap into the potential that the sector to offer especially in the Africa region where the benefits and the potential that the sector has to offer is yet to be maximised.”

VA: Can you tell us some of the developments the UNWTO is engaged in Africa?
EG: “Our programme of work has been focussed on the five priority areas of the organisation:
i) Make tourism smarter: innovation and the digital transformation;
ii) Grow our competitive edge: investments and entrepreneurship;
iii) Create more and better jobs: education and employment;
iv) Build resilience and facilitate travel: safe, secure and seamless travel;
v) Protect our heritage: social, cultural and environmental sustainability.

In addition to responding to the specific technical requests and needs of our member states, since last year our focus has been on the preparation and implementation of a strategic agenda for Africa. A blueprint aimed at developing a dedicated programme for the region to support an integrated approach to sustainable tourism development as one of its key socio-economic drivers in the continent. The agenda also aims to foster resilience and support destinations in creating a safe and secure environment for people and visitors. The growth and resilience of tourism to external shocks places the sector at the forefront of any country’s export strategy and economic diversification, thus playing a decisive role in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Investing in people, boosting infrastructure development, shaping better policies and institutions, building resilience, stimulating entrepreneurship, fostering innovation and digitalization, and making sustainable use of rich biodiversity and culture, should be at the core of our efforts to unlock and realize the potential of tourism for the continent’s economic growth, while mitigating migration and preserving its rich natural and cultural assets.

The Secretary-General is fully committed to develop and promote a UNWTO Special Programme for Africa the “UNWTO Agenda for Africa 2030 – Tourism for inclusive growth“ with African Members, responding to the diversity of needs and countries, mobilizing partners, resources and competences; and securing substantial extra budgetary resources will be a key priority to sustain these efforts and a successful implementation.

VA: What is your view of the state of Africa’s tourism and your projections in future?
EG: “Tourism in Africa is a flourishing sector that supports more than 21 million jobs, or 1 in 14 jobs, on the continent. Its potential to enrich and uplift the lives of millions across the continent is unquestionable. Over the last two decades, Africa has recorded robust growth, with international tourist arrivals and tourism revenues growing 6 per cent per year between 1995 and 2017. In the next decade, tourisms’ continued growth is expected to generate an additional 11.7 million jobs in Africa. Our long-term forecast shows that Africa is expected to more than double its arrivals from 63 million to 134 million by the year 2030.
In Africa we have an emerging young middle class with disposable income. The demographic dividend if well managed could represent a significant market potential and opportunity for the tourism sector. More young African people will travel within the region and enjoy the beauty of the continent. In addition the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative by the African Union is a key element that will give new impetus to the development of trade and air connectivity in the region. Its success will depend on close collaboration between the industry and government to ease the constraints facing the aviation sector. Ultimately tourism is about partnerships – a force for good for all. ”

VA: What will you say to those aspiring to be like you?
EG: “Tourism is a sector that offers a lot of opportunities for young women and girls, from anywhere in the world. It requires great commitment. But with the right support and encouragement you will find that hard work and dedication pays off. Above all believe in yourself, set your goal and work towards achieving it. There will be ups and downs but remain focussed, keep an open mind and surround yourself with people that will help raise you. And never lose sight of gratitude for the opportunities to see the world, and be a part of the global community, which only working in tourism can create.”

This article was first published in the eighth edition of the VoyagesAfriq Travel Magazine.

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