By Demola Ojo
At the recently concluded Africa Travel Indaba in Durban South Africa, tourism ministers from several African countries called for greater regional cooperation to ensure growth in tourism across the continent. This as Nigeriaâ€™s Consul General to South Africa, Godwin Adama, assured investors and tourists that Nigeria is ready for visitors, especially with the new Visa-on-Arrival policy.
At the fifth African ministerial session hosted by South African Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, a session themed â€œIntegrated Regional Tourism â€“ A Tool for Economic Developmentâ€, had key tourism industry experts and players deliberating on the state of tourism in Africa.
â€œTourism in Africa is advancing steadily and we have been able to leverage successfully on our geographical and cultural assets to attract tourists to our continent. With global tourist arrivals predicted to reach 134 million by 2030, there is an increased need for us to address the challenges that hinder the growth of tourism.
â€œThis will require that we find ways to work together to create an enabling environment that will facilitate synergy in the development of regional tourism products, and ensure the growth and sustainability of the African tourism market,â€ said Hanekom.
Tourism ministers from Angola, Kingdom of eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe were joined by a panel of tourism experts to explore potential solutions to the challenges of regional integration.
The discussions emphasised the need for increased commitment from all African states in implementing bilateral and multilateral agreements. This would encourage governments to ensure that the basic infrastructure and regulatory frameworks are in place to facilitate regional tourism growth.
African tourist arrivals increased by 8% (4 million tourists) to reach 58 million in 2016, and it supported 8.3 million direct jobs. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), this number is expected to increase to 11.6 million jobs by 2028.
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) representative, Ms. Alcia Grandcourt stated that although it was important to recognise the economic gains of tourism, it is equally important to acknowledge the social benefits of peace and social cohesion brought on by tourism in the continent.
â€œTourism is bringing us together and breaking down barriers and stereotypes as it has opened up the world for people to learn about its diverse cultures and heritage.
â€œOur communities are a critical measure of the success of tourism. As we map the way towards an integrated tourism region, let us ensure that we take our communities with us to ensure sustainable tourism growth that will be enjoyed by future generations,â€ said Grandcourt
Meanwhile, Nigerian envoy to South Africa, Adama, in a meeting with Nigerian travel, trade and media personnel hosted by South African Tourism said Nigeria is endowed with lots of natural resources, adding that the country has so much to offer in terms culture, tourism and hospitality that can attract foreign investment.
The Nigerian Government has made it easier for intending travellers to the country to obtain visa on arrival once the application is done online early he said, adding that the Consulate General of Nigeria in South Africa had launched a biometric visa regime to comply with the International method of visa processing.
According to him, from east to west, north to south, Nigeria is sustainably encircled by tourist centres that can effectively contribute to the countryâ€™s GDP and that Nigeriaâ€™s hospitality sector is second to none.
â€œWe are the most welcoming and hospitable people on earth. We treat guests and foreigners with utmost respect and this is embedded in our culture.â€
He said tourists can take advantage many attractions in the country like Obudu Mountain Resort in Cross River State, Ogbunike Cave and Nike Resort in Enugu, the Lagos Atlantic coast, Osun Osogbo Grove among others.