The EAC Council of Tourism and Wildlife Ministers endorsed mid-this year, the annual East African Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE).
Tanzania was selected to host the first EARTE with a theme of “Promotion of Resilient Tourism for Inclusive Socio-economic Development.” The Expo closed early last week.
The African Tourism Board (ATB) was represented by its Executive Chairman Mr. Cuthbert Ncube with other representatives from outside the EAC bloc.
Mr. Ncube conducted an Executive Talk about the ATB’s role in Africa’s tourism development.
eTN: What is the primary vision of the Africa Tourism Board towards Africa’s tourism?
NCUBE: Our primary vision is to ensure that Africa becomes a “One Tourist Destination” of choice in the world. We are focused on development, promotion, and marketing of Africa’s tourism through various means.
These include lobbying, mobilization of resources, and influence policy making to ensure that Africa becomes a “One Destination of Choice in the World.”
The Board (ATB) is now working together with African governments in various areas which we think would speed up tourism growth in Africa. This, including the removal of barriers between the 54 African states to attract Intra-African tourism.
eTN: How is the African Tourism Board helping African countries gain more from tourism?
NCUBE: The African Tourism Board is committed to assist governments, private sector, communities, and other stakeholders in promoting and facilitating tourism growth and development in Africa.
We are working together with the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) to achieve the AU Agenda 2063 aspirations and the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through tourism.
This includes branding, marketing, and promoting Africa as a single tourist destination at the global tourist market arena.
Our continental tourism board (ATB) is now lobbying through African governments, business organizations, non-governmental organizations, the African Union, and the United Nations groups and regional blocs to ensure the free movement for African citizens within Africa from one country to another.
eTN: Which movements and categories of people is the ATB targeting?
NCUBE: The target is for Africans to travel within Africa, starting with own country of residence – people to travel within their own country as domestic tourists, then regional states, and later the whole of Africa. The East African Community (EAC) has paved a way for such a regional tourism category.
We can see Kenyans visiting Tanzania and other EAC bloc members, the same as Tanzanians and the rest. People from the rest of the EAC bloc can visit Western Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda to see chimpanzees, gorillas which are not found in the rest of other members.
Additionally, ATB is lobbying for easy movement of all foreign tourists to apply the single visa to cross territorial borders in Africa. This could attract more foreign tourists to spend more days in Africa through easy movements across borders using a single visa.
eTN: Outside South Africa and the Arab North Africa, what is the Board doing to help Sub-Saharan Africa gain more from Tourism?
NCUBE: We have partnered with several African countries to organize tourism exhibitions targeting Domestic and Regional Tourism. We had last year (2020), such an exhibition in Tanzania – the UWANDAE Expo.
A team of ATB representatives from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Egypt have participated with the EARTE in Arusha. Travel restrictions on the COVID-19 pandemic have affected our work, but we still move on.
The African Tourism Board is currently working with the International Tourism Investment Conference (ITIC) for a continental investment drive in promoting tourism development in Africa.
Through ITIC, investors from Bulgaria in partnerships with other investors, are going to establish the $72 million in 4 hotels project in Northern Tanzania, within Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro wildlife parks.
Tanzania is the first beneficiary of ITIC investments that will take over from January next year 2022.
The Board is also working with the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini and has set up a strategy that would promote our African cultures. Cultural performances and heritages are part of Domestic and Cultural Tourism that pulls crowds of local citizens for Domestic Tourism development.
eTN: How is this Board helping to improve this?
NCUBE: The African Tourism Board is also giving smaller destinations and stakeholders a directly cost-effective and efficient way to reach out to trade, media, and travelers in potential tourist markets for Africa. The aim is to achieve local tourism capacity, and the domestic and intra-African tourism base to minimize dependence of European and American tourists.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had taught a lesson that Africa should be self-dependent in tourism. Lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed in Europe, the United States, Asia, and other potential tourist markets had greatly affected African tourism
Africa receives about 62 million tourists out of over a billion global tourists recorded each year. Europe receives nearly 600 million global tourists.
Our Tourism Board is now pushing for regional tourism blocs. It is a right step towards the objectivity of the African agenda to see EAC as a bloc joining hands in an inclusive and well-coordinated approach.
ATB is going to stage an exhibition at the Qatar Travel Mart (QTM) to be taking place mid-November. We have invited African tourism ministers to participate, aiming to attract more tourists to visit Africa and also attracting development of intra-African tourism.
eTN: How has the African Tourism Board rated the first East African Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE)?
NCUBE: Tourism in the EAC region had been affected badly. The EAC Secretariat had indicated a regional tourism drop of about 67.7 percent last year (2020) to about 2.25 million international tourists, losing US$4.8 billion from tourist revenues.
The EAC region had earlier projected to attract 14 million tourists in 2025 before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak had badly affected the trend.
The EAC region has only 8.6 percent share of the Africa’s tourism revenues and 0.3 percent of the world tourism shares.
Kenya and Tanzania are a good example of an upcoming regional bloc where tourists can cross territorial borders to see then enjoy the shared tourist resources.
The African Tourism Board is currently working together with African governments and a series of donor agencies to promote relationships between local communities and tourism players.
There is no tourism without the community. Communities are the ambassadors of tourism. Our tourism in tourism in Africa is basically based within the local communities.
eTN: From ATB’s perspective, what does it mean to take part in the first EARTE?
NCUBE: It is a the right step towards the objectivity of the African agenda to see EAC as bloc joining hands as a bloc as opposed to individual segmentation that will not take us anywhere as a continent.
Look, we have noted the drive by the President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, who is a champion and pioneer of Africa’s development strategy through tourism. ATB has awarded President Samia with a Continental Tourism Award 2021. She stood firmly as the sector resiliently made a comeback amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zanzibar President, Dr. Hussen Mwinyi, launched the annual regional EARTE in Tanzania to be rotational among each member state. This regional expo will be branding Africa as a single destination of choice, with the focus of a continental output. We need to break barriers.
eTN: Has ATB rolled out any recovery measures for the tourism sector to get back on its feet?
NCUBE: The African Tourism Board is collaborating with African countries to campaign for tourism recovery in East Africa and Africa. We are applying our regional and global marketing network and the media to encourage more visitors to book then visit Africa.
The ATB is expanding on opportunities for marketing, public relations, investments, branding, promoting, and establishing niche tourism markets.
In partnership with private and public sector members, the African Tourism Board enhances the sustainable growth, value, and quality of travel and tourism in Africa.