ACCRA, Ghana – “It is a tragedy that many of the positive stories of Africa are often hidden from the headlines,” said the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General, Mr. Taleb Rifai, commenting at the recently-concluded conference held in Ghana, Africa.
The UNWTO Regional Conference on “Enhancing Brand Africa – Fostering Tourism Development” held from August 17-19, 2015 concluded with a call for stronger regional cooperation and increased partnerships as means to build a stronger brand value for Africa.
Hosted by the government of Ghana, the conference was opened by the President of Ghana, Mr. John Dramani Mahama, who emphasized the importance Africa places on the potential of tourism to accelerate the development of its economies. “Tourism for us in Ghana is a major foreign exchange earner, contributing today 4.7% of our GDP. Through a number of strategies, Ghana has achieved the target of 1 million tourist arrivals, and we are working to improve on the arrivals and revenue from tourism. Tourism currently stands as the 4th largest contributor of revenue to the national economy after cocoa, gold and oil and gas,” he said.
Addressing the issue of the region´s image, President Mahama stressed the need to change perceptions and be innovative in telling the story of Africa “We must change the negative perception that has been built over the years. Africa is not one country, it is 54 different countries. Africa is the fastest growing continent in terms of population. Six African countries are among the top ten fastest growing economies of the world. There are more mobile subscribers in Africa than Europe and America combined. And there are many more unique selling points of this continent that we can package for the world. If we package Africa, the international media will respond,” he added.
“Rarely do we ever hear news about Africa´s fastest growing economies, its medical breakthroughs or how new technologies are transforming its industries and societies. This absence leaves a wide hole in the full story of Africa. To not tell this full story is to flatten our perspective of Africa´s reality,” said UNWTO Secretary-General opening the conference, alongside President Mahama, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts of Ghana, Ms. Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare and the Mayor of Accra, Mr. Alfred Oko Vanderpuije.
Zain Asher, anchor of CNN International’s “Newsroom” and “CNN Marketplace Africa,” recalled that half of the international tourists visiting Africa come from Africa and that Africa needs to “own its own story”. Conclusions from the Conference include the need for African destinations to:
1. “Own their narrative;”
2. Engage civil society, particularly women and youth, in communicating “new messages;”
3. Embrace technology and social media (the campaign #theAfricatheMediaNeverShowsYou was shared as an example);
4. Build 54 strong country brands as the pillar of Brand Africa;
5. Enhance regional cooperation in areas such as visas and air connectivity;
6. Build partnerships with media, civil society and the private sector acknowledging the new role of destination marketing organizations as ‘facilitators’ of people’s stories;
7. Invest in crisis preparedness in the area of communication; and
8. Advance capacity building in communications and marketing.
Participating in the meeting were the Ministers of Tourism of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Ghana, the representative of the African Union (AU), and public and private sector representatives from over 40 countries.
On the occasion, President Mahama was presented with the UNWTO/WTTC Open Letter on Travel and Tourism, which aims to rally the support of heads of state and government from around the world to advance the contribution that the sector can make to socio-economic development. Since it was launched in 2011, the Open Letter has been presented to 74 heads of state and government.
The conclusions of the Conference, which was supported by partners CNN International and Ethiopian Airlines, will be communicated to the 57th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa gathering African Tourism Ministers at the 21st UNWTO General Assembly taking place in Colombia from September 14-17.