Regional collaboration needed to revitalise the tourism sector

African exhibitors and ministers of tourism have called for more regional collaboration to revitalise the tourism sector, following two years of the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking on day one of the Travel Indaba, Zambia’s Tourism Minister Rodney Sikumba said tourism is viewed as a critical sector contributing significantly to the country’s DGP, after mining and agriculture.

“The tourism sector was hit the hardest by Covid-19. We are here as part of the rebound,” Sikumba said.

He added: “We expect to reconnect with our travel partners and buyers from our continent and beyond.”

On Zambia’s unique selling proposition, he said the country prides itself on the fantastic destination, including the Big Victoria Falls and the magnificent Big Five, to name just a few.

He revealed that Zambia accounts for 40 percent of the waterfalls in the Southern African Development Community (SADEC) region.

He called for the Intra-African travel and the need to improve connectivity, fast-tracking the e-Visa regime on the continent, and looking forward to the visa-free travel in the future.

To improve Intra-Africa travel, he called for the African travellers to be treated as locals throughout the continent, not as international tourists, to manage the high cost of tourism.

Eswatini Tourism Authority (ETA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Linda Nxumalo said they are here as part of the tourism sector’s bounce-back strategy.

“Africa’s Travel Indaba is a great place to meet buyers. All subsectors of the tourism value chain are represented here,” Nxumalo said.

She revealed that the tourism sector suffered greatly in Eswatini during the pandemic. “Covid-19 humbled us, yet it taught us the importance of focusing on domestic tourism,” she said.

She added: “We are looking at regional tourism as our key to bounce back from Covid-19”.

Furthermore, she said they are here at the travel trade show “to market our beautiful landscapes and most giant granite and, yes, we are open for business.”

CEO of Mozambique Tourism Authority Marco Vaz dos Anjos said his country is proud of its delicious local cuisine and 2.7 kilometres of the coastal area.

He said the biggest stumbling block to regional travel is connectivity in Africa. “We are here to network and invite other exhibitors to come to the clean waters of the Indian Ocean and big marine.”

Dos Anjos said, “Our greatest weakness lies in connectivity. First of all, we need to know our weakness: interconnectivity.”

Nonetheless, he called for greater cooperation. “We must put away our differences and promote sharing the good parts that we each have in abundance,” he concluded.

Rita Likukuma, Acting Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), said, “Intra-regional travel will shape the future of tourism, especially after COVID-19. We are now focused on developing Southern African and global market,” Likukuma said,

He added: “Zim is a beautiful country, and to demonstrate our seriousness, we have 27 exhibitors here to showcase our beautiful destinations, including the big Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe National Monument, and Lake Kariba.”

“We pride ourselves on good weather, peace and tranquillity, and a safe destination. We have an abundance of wildlife,” he said.

He explained that Zimbabwe is pinning its hopes on divine intervention. “We expect Africa’s Travel Indaba 2022 edition to bring us together in a Moses biblical sense of the world after two years of Covid-19 separation.”

He called for fellow Africans to support each other by attending each other’s local travel shows.

On integration, he called for free visa travel on the continent. “We have to speed up visa-free travel throughout the continent and improve connectivity,” he concluded.

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