During a panel discussion at the ongoing WTTC Global Summit in Rwanda, African Ministers of Tourism from Kenya and South Africa highlighted the need for increased connectivity and visa liberalization to promote travel within the continent.
The panel, titled “Clearing the Pathway,” emphasized the importance of facilitating travel for African citizens and the benefits of a visa-free regime for intra-African travelers.
Alfred Mutua, Kenya’s Minister of Wildlife and Tourism, shared insights into Kenya’s commitment to open its doors to all Africans, stating, “You need to come to where you come from, you need to come to where your ancestors come from. So, why do you need a visa to come home?” Building on an earlier announcement by Kenya’s President William Ruto, Mutua revealed that, “By the end of this year, all African passport holders can travel to Kenya without any visa requirement.” He also added that Africa is the “Cradle of Humankind.”
Furthermore, Kenya is launching a new marketing and promotion campaign focusing on its identity as the “Cradle of Humankind.” Mutua added that the country’s tourism industry has made a strong recovery post-COVID-19 and is on track to achieve a record-high hotel occupancy rate of at least 90% this year.
Patricia de Lille, South Africa’s Tourism Minister, underscored the importance of strong government policies and private sector partnerships to boost intra-African travel, saying, “Governments must facilitate the policy around connectivity, but we can’t do it without the help of the private sector.”
She highlighted South Africa’s commitment to visa waivers, with 34 countries already enjoying such privileges. Notably, South Africa’s 90-day visa waiver agreement with Kenya and increased air connectivity has resulted in Kenya becoming the fastest-growing market for South Africa.
De Lille expressed the desire to strengthen tourism markets with all countries in Africa, emphasizing the significance of open access, “We would like to strengthen the market for all countries, especially for our sisters and brothers in Africa.”
The panel concluded that opening up to the world is a more lucrative approach for African countries and encouraged governments to work in collaboration with the private sector to ensure robust and accessible tourism policies. “Don’t look at the small amount of money you’re losing, look at the bigger pot – you gain much more, by opening up to the world,” Kenya’s Mutua stressed.
The event also featured insights from Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, who shared Dubai’s successful strategies in leveraging increased air connectivity to boost tourism numbers.