Everyone wants to know what will or should happen after COVID19. Well, those in tourism are anxious about what is the future of the tourism sector post the pandemic. Truth is we have no way of knowing as there is no scientific answer to such questions. We are sailing in uncharted waters. A famous management consultant, Peter Drucker once said “the best way to predict the future is to create it” and this is so relevant right now. This is the moment for African tourism role players to create the future they want post this pandemic.
With these prolonged lockdowns in many countries, it has become very obvious that international travel will not recover in the short to medium term, as nations battle to control the COVID-19 pandemic. There are speculations that it might even take up to two years to see full recovery of international travel. Even when borders reopen, travelers the world over, will remain fearful and it will take time to regain their confidence in international travel. This is why most destinations, tour operators and tourism professionals are focusing their efforts on supporting and promoting domestic travel.
However, there is another huge opportunity that can be derived from this pandemic. The opportunity to know each other’s African Culture through travel. This means actively and deliberately driving African cultural tourism. The current reality is that as Africans we know very little if at all, about each other’s cultures, history, traditions or languages. How many in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Congo know about South African cultures and vice versa? This is the perfect time that when the skies reopen, we, Africans in Africa set out on a voyage of cultural tourism and travel to other African states to learn more about our cultures. Imagine what this could do in instilling African pride, dealing with issues of xenophobia and changing perceptions amongst Africans. Almost all African destinations have wildlife, and I am of the belief that once you see one lion in Botswana, it will look exactly the same as the one you will see in Limpopo, but cultures are different. This will be an opportunity to teach our children about Africa, and create a very powerful legacy.
Of course, in order for this to happen we need African governments to support intra-Africa travel through progressive polices especially on visa regimes and air access. We need strong African leadership to make difficult decisions, that will in the end assist in growing Africa’s tourism and reduce our reliance on international travel. Such policies will assist in growing African economies and ensuring money stays in the continent. This pandemic presents an opportunity to reposition Africa tourism and motivate for an even stronger support from our governments.
My challenge to all Africans is to revisit their ‘bucket’ lists and ensure they are Africa focused. We have a responsibility to rebuild the continent not for ourselves but for our children and through such an effort tourism can rise again from the ashes and be part of the economic recovery post the pandemic.
Author: Sonto Ndlovu, CEO Limpopo Tourism Agency