African Tourism needs new approach- Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary

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Photo: Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala

African economies and destination managers have been urged to adopt new models in boosting tourism on the continent.Leading the charge is Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala. In a detailed article,Mr Balala who also chairs the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Executive Council said, lessons from the coronavirus (Covid-19) should include making domestic and intra-africa tourism a fulcrum in growing tourism on continent.

Below is the full details of the article

The year begun on a positive note for Kenya’s tourism with the country receiving 1,444,670 arrivals between July 2019 and February 2020; compared to 1,423,548 over the same period last year.

What followed is the greatest health emergency of our times: The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – an emergency that has almost brought the entire world to a standstill, with sectors that contribute to the thriving of economies being affected, tourism being one of the industries hit hard globally.

The disease which first broke out in Wuhan, China in November of 2019, has now found itself across the globe with over 1.3 million infections as of the last count. This has resulted in total lockdown in some countries and with this, the closure of businesses and travel.

Governments around the world have also put in place stringent travel and social restrictions to curb the spread of the disease. The Government of Kenya has in turn taken bold, but necessary steps to fight this scourge which include stopping of conferences and events, as well as halting international flights from coming to the country as among a raft of precautions against the spread of the disease.

Consequently, the tourism industry in Kenya is predicting losses in the Billions owing to the disruption that has been occasioned by COVID-19 globally. Currently, several hotels and hospitality establishments have temporarily closed as human traffic to the outlets has significantly reduced as a result of the limited movement and restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the disease.

This said, it is not all gloom and doom for the travel industry. We first need to accept that recovery from this pandemic will take time and we must be patient as we recover from it.

Secondly, we need a paradigm shift on the mentality that we have if we want a quick recovery and better tourism. It is no longer about waiting for international visitors to come in for tourism to thrive. As a country, we must start appreciating the domestic market and offer them products that are right for them. Therefore, we need not be dependent on foreign tourism and start investing heavily on the domestic and regional market. Many of the international markets established initially with first their own domestic and regional markets, before looking further. For instance, most of the 82 million tourists that flock into Spain are domestic or from the neighbouring countries in Europe.

Also, we need to start thinking about promoting intra-Africa tourism. Africa has a population of about 1.2 billion people, but only receive 62 million tourists, which is disappointing. As the African adage says, ‘if you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.’ Now is the time for Africa. African states must unite and form a federation to promote tourism within the continent. If we can just have 300-400 million people travelling within the continent, we can surely boost each other’s jobs and generate revenue without being dependent on international tourists. As a continent, let us have a strategy on connectivity within the continent, open sky policy will increase travelers, trade and investment, we should also think about infrastructure development within Africa from road network, maritime as well as railway network. Once we have done so, the region is going to open up and the improved infrastructure is going to upscale the economy.

Author: Najib Balala- Cabinet Secretary of Tourism and Wildlife,Kenya

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