With Africa accounting for a fraction of the global tourism revenue, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation has demanded proactive policies by the respective governments to drive tourism statistics and jobs in the continent. Olawale Ajimotokan, in Abuja, reports
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has made a clarion call to Nigeria and other African governments to initiate action-oriented proposals for the development of sustainable tourism in the continent. The appeal was made in Abuja where the 61st UNWTO CAF meeting was held to explore the transformative contributions the tourism sector can make towards national economies.
Tourism ministers from 36 African countries and over 500 foreign delegates attended the technical workshop themed: “Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development”. After three days of dialogue, the ministers considered how countries could effectively use statistics supplied by UNWTO to initiate sound policies and strategies for the development of a sustainable tourism sector.
During the meeting, UNWTO proposed the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics and the Tourism Satellite Account as reliable guides for producing data that is credible and comparable across countries and standards to facilitate improvement of livelihoods in Africa. According to UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, “These are guides for producing data that is credible and comparable across countries, across standards and over time. We are furthering our statistics work as part of our contributions to the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and the African Union Agenda 2063. Strengthening systems for tourism statistics is one of the focus areas in UNWTO’s own Agenda for Africa. Our agenda intersects with the African Union’s roadmap. We are looking for a harmonisation of statistics on tourism’s contribution to African economies.
“Because if statistics read the same way everywhere, then policies can be built with a solid base for addressing strategic issues. We also launched work towards MST, a ‘Statistical Framework for Measuring Sustainable Tourism’ in all its dimensions – economic but also social and environmental.
“This MST roadmap is advancing on a global level, but Africa’s participation is key. Why? Firstly, because if we are to get a true picture of sustainable tourism development then we will rely on innovation. We will rely on finding ways to modernise data sources and collection.”
The ministers, however, noted that tourism receipts by destinations in the region had shown a sustained growth in the past decades. Last year, international tourist arrivals to destinations in Africa grew at an estimated eight per cent to 63 million, representing five per cent of the world total. This strong momentum is expected to continue at a rate of five-seven per cent in 2018.
According to the UNWTO long-term outlook on tourism, the number of international arrivals in Africa is expected to reach 134 million in 2030, though this share in worldwide tourism does not fully reflect the huge potential of tourism in Africa.
Nigeria on Global Stage
After leading a delegation comprising the Regional Director for Africa, Ms Elicia Grandcourt, and Executive Director Zhu Shanzong on a courtesy visit to President Mohammadu Buhari, Pololikashvili affirmed that Africa, particularly Nigeria, could offer more by using its world acclaimed cuisine, music, creative industry and diverse culture as tourism assets. He described Nigeria as a good example for Africa that needs to be promoted as it is one of the most attractive and important tourist destinations in the world.
Pololikashvili said the Abuja summit provided a veritable platform to discuss and articulate concrete steps towards the development of tourism on the continent, adding the commitment shown by the president to tourism development has motivated the UNWTO to renew its interest in Nigeria.
“We had very interesting discussions with ministers and we made very concrete decisions on how to continue and how to work with African continent, which has full support from our organisation, and we are very glad that we are going in the right way.
“We have an ambitious plan. We want to promote Africa as one of the main and most important tourism destinations in the world,” he said.
Pololikashvili, a former Georgian Ambassador Extraordinary to Spain, said tourism has opened up new destinations in Africa, turning it into a key driver of socioeconomic progress through the creation of jobs and enterprises, export revenues, and infrastructure development while, at the same time, contributing towards the conservation and preservation of natural and cultural heritage.
He also underscored the need to build tight links between public and private sectors for tourism to transform growth across the continent and for the benefit of its people.
It was in this light that Nigeria’s richest man Aliko Dangote was named an ambassador for Responsible Tourism for setting up the largest foundation in Africa – the Dangote Foundation – devoted to providing nutrition, health and education to the continent’s most vulnerable people.
Pololikashvili noted that by the addition, Dangote will act as a messenger to UNWTO legacy and vision across the globe.
At the summit, the African ministers stressed the importance of accurate tourism measurement in order for tourism strategies to effectively contribute to national economies. The ministerial dialogue addressed the significance of collecting and compiling quantitative and qualitative data, as well as the importance of commitments from national stakeholders and institutional partnerships for a rigorous tourism statistics system.
Secretary General of the Federation Boss Mustapha represented Buhari at the meeting.
The president stated that Nigeria has great potentials for tourism and investment, further underscoring the relevance of the sector, both regarding its contribution to sustainable development and its role to further diversify the economy and increase social resilience.
He announced the cutting of tariffs on casino, amusement park equipment and import duty on casino machine and amusement park equipment not manufactured in the country and commencement of visa on arrival policy which the federal government introduced last year to drive investment in the tourism sector. He also underscored government’s readiness to grant incentives, including pioneer status to all major tourism projects.
Some of the items he listed to enjoy minimum tariffs include, materials for hotel construction and furnishing, dedicated transportation for tour operators, equipment for restaurants not manufactured in Nigeria, amusement park equipment and minimum duty on casino equipment.
He called on the investors in the tourism sector to consider Nigeria as their second home as government is committed to providing security to all Nigerians, investors and tourists.
The president added that the government was also deepening the legislative and institutional capacities for the protection of intellectual property rights in Nigeria, saying such will give all investors the assurance of security of their rights especially in the creative industry. He commended the leadership of the UNWTO, CAF and tourism ministers from all over Africa for considering Nigeria worthy of hosting the event this year.
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed said the meeting was an impetus to discuss ways and means to promote intra-Africa travels and tourism. Mohammed disclosed that the federal government used the UNWTO-CAF meeting to test its Visa-On-Arrival policy, which is part of the efforts to boost tourism in the country. He said many of the delegates to the meeting were issued their visas on arrival by the Nigerian Immigration Service.
The federal government introduced the issuance of visa on arrival for business travellers last year to support ease of doing business in the country.