Domestic and regional tourism key to Africa’s post-COVID-19 recovery
Developing domestic and regional tourism is the best strategy that would make African continent a single destination, taking into account of the rich tourist attractions within the continent, according to Africa’s travel and tourism industry power players.
Kenyan minister for Tourism and Wildlife Mr. Najib Balala said late last week that domestic and regional tourism was the key and best approach that would bring the African tourism to immediate recovery from COVID-19 pandemic effects.
Speaking during the tourism and hospitality industry stakeholders webinar in Kenya, Mr. Balala said that development of domestic and regional tourism in Africa will lay out the ground-work for the sector’s recovery.
He singled out domestic and regional tourism as key to Africa’s future in tourism development.
“The international market will take a while to recover and we should therefore bank on the domestic and regional travelers. However, affordability and accessibility will play a vital role in this”, he noted.
Mr. Balala’s sentiments were supported by Damian Cook, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of E-Tourism Frontiers, and a leading international tourism consultant.
“We need to take stock of Kenyan products, see what is going to work during recovery and capitalize on them”, Cook said.
The webinar, under the banner “Leap Forward” had brought together over 500 stakeholders to listen and interact with six local and international tourism experts who made compelling presentations on the way forward for Kenyan tourism.
Key panelists and tourism experts other than Damian Cook were Chad Shiver, Destination Marketing Head for Africa and Trip Advisor and Alexandra Blanchard the Destination Sales Manager for EMEA and Trip Advisor.
Other experts were Ninan Chacko, the Senior Advisor, McKinsey and Company, Hugo Espirito Santos, Partner, McKinsey and Company, Karim Wissanji, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Elewana Group, Maggie Ireri, CEO, TIFA Research Limited and Joanne Mwangi-Yelbert, Chief Executive Officer, PMS Group.
Data presented by TripAdvisor’s Destination Marketing Head for Africa indicated that in terms of recovery, Africa leads in the number of respondents of which 97 percent were ready to take short domestic trips within six months of the end of COVID-19.
The data also indicated that most travelers were seeking road trips and beach experiences, because of concerns about boarding planes and the need to unwind, respectively, post-COVID-19.
This data further supported Mr. Balala’s call for a focus on domestic and regional tourism. Ninan Chacko of McKinsey, called for re-imagination and reform of Kenya’s tourism to have a more diversified tourism product that offers options and more value to travelers.
He gave the example of Tourism Australia and said that in tandem with the focus on domestic and regional tourism, Kenya could position itself as the hub for East African tourism given its national airline’s network and resilience and its developed tourism infrastructure.
Kenya Airways is the leading carrier in East and Central Africa with connections to key cities in the whole of Africa. It connects mostly West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean tourist Islands of Zanzibar and the Seychelles.
Hugo Espirito-Santos, of McKinsey further noted that one of the ways to re-imagine and reform the tourism product would be by focusing on experiential tourism in which tourists could be offered a better experience by reducing density in tourism sites such as the Maasai Mara and laying out strategies that take into consideration geography, consumer segments and culture and food experiences.
Damian Cook of E-Tourism Frontiers, gave an elaborate strategy centered on react, rethink and recovery to get the sector back on its feet and called for all players to develop a new paradigm for their businesses noting that the post-Covid -19 world will bring changes on the scale of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the United States.
This he said would include bilateral tourism agreements and Covid-19 free certifications for countries.
Maggie Ireri, of TIFA Research Limited, took participants through the results of an online poll which gave them an indication of the tourism stakeholders pain-points.
Pain-points which had earlier been brought to the Minister’s attention by the sector and he had already presented them to the National Treasury of Kenya for consideration.
Mr. Balala laid out the six-point agenda that his Ministry is pursuing for the sector, which employs over 1.6 million Kenyans and represents 20 percent of the country’s (Kenya) Gross Domestic Product.
Pain-points agenda brought to the minister for discussion were Creation of a Tourism Recovery Revolving Fund, Deferring of Tax and Reduction of Input Costs and Fees, Incentives for Tourism Sector Investors, Enhanced Domestic Tourism Marketing Budget, Better support and coordination with the aviation sector and Primacy and investment in Conservation and Wildlife as the backbone.
“My key points as I close this webinar are that we have to restart and reset the tourism industry from a new slate going forward. We need to utilize the ever-evolving digital world, step up conservation and re-invigorate wildlife product, advocate for legislation and re-look at the aviation and travel sector.” Mr. Balala said.