Tomorrow, the African Tourism Board (ATB) is celebrating its two-year anniversary after its soft launch during the 2018 World Travel Market (WTM) in London with a promising future to shape marketing Africa before the world tourism map. There is a strong London – Hawaii connection, not only because Sierra Leone is seen as the Hawaii of Africa.
It all started a month earlier with an idea and a website www.africantourismboard.com . The website was established by eTurboNews as a commercial platform, and the idea came from eTurboNews Publisher Juergen Steinmetz.
Steinmetz, who is also Chairman of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP) consulted with his partner Professor Geoffrey Lipman, President of the organization, and madethe African Tourism Board a project under the ICTP umbrella with the goal being to promote climate-friendly travel to Africa.
A month later and after consulting with industry leaders which included Alain St. Ange, the former Minister of Tourism from Seychelles; Walter Mzembi; and Dr. Taleb Rifai, Carol Weaving of Reed Exhibitions loved the idea and offered a complimentary room at World Travel Market in London for a soft launch of ATB.
The soft launching of the African Tourism Board took place on Monday, November 5, 2018, during World Travel Market in London at Excel where invited guests, key personalities, and dignitaries from the world tourist organization took the podium to launch the Board.
Invited were private stakeholders, VIPs, government officials, and media as well as key personalities who observed the soft launching of ATB in London.
Sponsored by Reed Expo, the organizer of WTM, the event saw the birth of ATB whose task is to bring the African continent to the world tourism map with a mission of “Where Africa becomes one destination.”
During the event in London, the ATB patrons and elders made an announcement for the official launch of the Board in Cape Town, South Africa, in April the following year, 2019, during WTM Africa.
The African Tourism Board then stood as an association that is internationally acclaimed as a catalyst for the responsible development of travel and tourism to and from the African region.
The Association provides aligned advocacy, insightful research, and innovative events to its members across Africa and those outside Africa with passion for the development of tourism in Africa.
Tourism executives and key personalities who had participated in ATB’s soft launching in London were Dr. Taleb Rifai, former Secretary General of UNWTO; Carol Weaving, Managing Director of oReed Exhibitions; Prof. Geoffrey Lipman of SunX and President of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP); and Alain St. Ange, former Minister of Tourism of the Seychelles.
Other executives who spoke during the London event under the leadership of Juergen Steinmetz were Graham Cooke, President and founder of World Travel Awards, and Tony Smith from I Free Group, Hong Kong.
African tourism ministers and heads of tourism boards from Mauritius, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Cape Verde, Uganda, and the former minister from Zimbabwe also observed the ATB soft launch in London.
ICTP Chairman Juergen Steinmetz said during the event that Africa needs one voice to promote its rich tourist attractions to the world tourism markets.
“There has been an enormous interest in this project, highlighting the need to promote tourism in Africa,” he said.
“Africa needs its own voice in the global industry with 54 countries, and many more different cultures, it is still a continent that needs to be discovered by many,” Steinmetz told the audience.
“The African Tourism Board is about business, investment, and development – all about bringing Africa together,” he said.
World Travel Awards President Graham Cooke said: “My experience with Africa is the lack of knowledge around the world about the continent, therefore, education is vital.
“There is a tremendous creativity in Africa and people need to hear about that. Africa should market itself as a single continent; the people should come together and present a single message,” Cooke added.
In partnership with public and private sector members, the African Tourism Board will provide leadership and counsel on an individual and collective basis to its members.
Steinmetz also touched on the process of bringing the African Tourism Board home to Africa and building a global network to promote the continent as the safest, most desirable and cleanest tourism destination in the world.
The aim of the African Tourism Board is to have a member in each African state for building an unparalleled network across the continent, he said.
“We will offer business projects which are available to members to which they can subscribe as they see fit,” added Steinmetz. The first initiatives from the Board include opportunities for investments, visibility, security, safety, and connectivity, among others.
After the successful soft launch of the new organization, Steinmetz went fishing using his eTurboNews network to attract a sizable membership base and candidates for leadership to bring ATB to the next step.
The official launch was announced for the World Travel Market in Capetown for April 2019. In Capetown, Steinmetz hired Doris Woerfel, a German resident in South Africa to put the puzzle together as the CEO. The first Chairman was Cuthbert Ncube, with President Alain St. Ange, and Head of Security Dr. Peter Tarlow.
An Executive Board known as EXCO was formed with Ncube, Woerfel, and Steinmetz and later Simba Mandinyenya, a former RETOSA executive who was invited to take ATB to the next level.
A year after the first launch at WTM 2018, the NGO was announced at WTM 2019, and this was the second step to bring the African Tourism Board from Hawaii to Pretoria, South Africa.
After COVID-19 took over the world, the African Tourism Board formed Project Hope, an initiative under the leadership of former UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai.
Tomorrow, November 5, 2020 will be the second birthday of ATB. A virtual event with hundreds of members and friends of Africa to attend and during which Steinmetz will remind the audience of his vision to form ATB into a true African organization with African leadership for Africa. Steinmetz will also remind members who joined ATB when it was still a Hawaii-based initiative, that a for-profit approach should not be discredited. “You can be successful if you have the money to pay people for their good work. It’s specifically true for marketing and visibility.”
Steinmetz will also remind the audience about his vision which has always been to eventually have an African Tourism Board under African leadership and for Africa. “We are almost there. ATB has a great continent-wide team of encouraged leaders wanting to make a difference for African tourism. We should not try to stop or over-regulate such regional initiatives, and we should support everyone who wants to make a positive impact on the tourism industry in Africa. There is nothing wrong with a member company to also want to make a profit – the opposite is the case – and we must support this.
“It’s now also time for the Executive Council to step back and accept only leaders who reside in Africa and have citizenship with an African country.
“The many of us non-Africans who want to help African tourism should form an Executive Board Advisory Group, but the Executive Council should be run by Africans and for Africans. It’s also important that a CEO should report to the board and must not be a part of the Executive Council. This would become a serious conflict of interest. The job of a CEO is so important for our organization and cannot be conflicted.
“It’s now time for our members also to make some decisions. We never had a general meeting, nor did we ever consult with members. Our constitution should reflect a more democratic way forward since we decided to go the non-profit way,” Steinmetz added.
Obviously, Steinmetz’s thoughts and for some reason this birthday party, has been met with criticism of a Coupd’État in a posting to the organizations WhatsApp group by an EXCO member. “Criticism is good and a progressive way to bring an organization forward,” Steinmetz said. “This is not a Coupd’Etat, but a virtual birthday party of an organization we put a lot into and want to move forward.”
However, tomorrow’s virtual birthday party will bring responses from those that have been involved from the very beginning. eTurboNews will sponsor a $10,000, $2,500, and $1,000 marketing award to be given to three lucky African companies attending the event.