Day two of the 6th Africa Tourism Leadership Forum (ATLF 2023) in Gaborone, Botswana, commenced with the inaugural AfCFTA Forum on Tourism, Creatives and Cultural Industries, setting the stage for a day filled with thought-provoking discussions on the future of African tourism.
AfCFTA Forum: A call to market brand Africa
The day began with an engaging panel discussion that included Patricia de Lille, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism. De Lille emphasised the need to genuinely market “Brand Africa” and accelerate the revitalisation of tourism post-Covid. She stressed that it is essential for governments to incentivize the private sector and create a platform for interaction between government and businesses. The consensus among panelists was that Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are vital for the growth and development of Africa’s tourism industry. The packaging of individual cultural experiences to enhance tourism was also a key topic of discussion.
Emily Mburu-Ndoria, Director of the Directorate of Trade in Services, Investment, Intellectual Property Rights & Digital Trade (DTIID) at the AfCFTA Secretariat, mentioned simplifying trade regimes and the need for advocacy, promotion and investment in tourism.
Intra-Africa Airlift and Connectivity
The discussion on integrating sustainable national airlines, air access, and travel facilitation systems underscored the importance of national airlines in the travel experience. Panelists stressed the pivotal role of national airlines in driving economic growth and the necessity for continued government financing. The call for collaboration and a shift in operation models to reduce the cost of regional flights was echoed, with the AfCFTA considering regional flights as domestic to eliminate unnecessary taxes. Investment in digital technology and skills was identified as essential for the future of Africa’s aviation.
Optimizing Returns on Tourism and Hospitality Investment
The panel explored practical steps for accessing private and development finance for tourism and hospitality infrastructure. PPPs were highlighted as instrumental in fostering collaboration between the private sector and government. The importance of transparency and realistic expectations when seeking funding was emphasized.
Youth and Women Empowerment
This session focused on unlocking economic opportunities for African youth and women through heritage, creative arts, and cultural tourism assets. Panelists emphasized the need to actively involve young people, provide them with capacity-building opportunities, and facilitate access to financial information and opportunities within AfCFTA for creative and cultural entrepreneurship.
Bidding and Hosting Association Meetings, Conferences, and Exhibitions
This segment discussed destination competitiveness through a futuristic approach to bidding and hosting association meetings. It emphasized the transformative potential of conferences and the importance of knowledge and capability in achieving success.
Spotlight on Sustainability in Tourism and Hospitality
A session on sustainability underscored the importance of green thinking, innovation, and profitability in the industry. Leveraging technology, responsible sourcing, and education on sustainability were key topics. The message was clear: sustainability is integral to long-term profitability and requires innovative solutions.
The Next Frontier: Digitalization
The day concluded with a focus on exploiting digitalization tools for the tourism and hospitality sector. Panelists stressed the need for African data to inform decisions, recognizing that “he who controls the data controls the narrative.” Embracing data regulations and understanding AI as a tool to enhance work were also highlighted. Beyond big data, there was also a call for African destinations to fully maximize basic data systems in enhancing tourism on the continent.
As ATLF 2023 progresses, it continues to serve as a vital platform for industry leaders to exchange ideas and drive the African tourism sector forward. In addition to the vital conversations, the general understanding gleaned was to come out with action plans to expedite AfCFTA’s implementation processes while putting youth and women at the heart of progressive tourism initiatives and policies.
ATLF 2023 continues to day three with more discussions on pertinent themes and will round up with the 2023 Africa Tourism Leadership Awards.
Story by Samuel Obeng Appah