THE President of South Africa, His Excellency Jacob Zuma has charged leaders and citizens of African countries to work together to ensure that they open up the continent for more tourists to come in and experience what they have to offer.
President Zuma said this when he addressed participants during the official opening of the 27th Tourism INDABA at the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC) in the KwaZulu Natal Province of South Africa last Tuesday.
According to statistics available to the United Nation’s organization responsible for tourism, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Africa saw a growth of 8% in international tourism arrivals to reach 58 million, representing twice the average rate of growth of the global rate of 4%.
“It is encouraging to see more travellers discovering our continent,” said President Zuma. “However, if we work together, then we can open up our beautiful continent for further growth in tourism.”
President Zuma who officially opened the three-day annual tourism business event indicated the willingness of his country to partner with other willing African countries to ensure that tourism would become an important economic growth activity in Africa.
“We are ready to work in partnership with our sister countries to make Africa a destination of choice for the world. We will grow Africa tourism together,” President Zuma stressed.
The President acknowledge the fact that regional blocs have been cooperating to work towards opening up their regions and therefore Africa to the world. “A lot is being done by regional economic blocs on the continent to promote integrated co-operation and develop infrastructure to provide tourists with a seamless experience across Africa.”
President Jacob Zuma noted how the transformation in the tourism sector in Africa can provide employment opportunity to its citizens. Referring to the tourism sector, he said “not only does it create job opportunities, but it also creates entrepreneurship opportunities, given the low barriers for new entrants, particularly for women and the youth.”
The President emphasized the role that tourism would play in the economic life of Africans if its opportunities are properly harnessed. “In this era of the fourth industrial revolution, which may threaten traditional jobs, tourism’s labour absorption capacity remains a greater weapon against unemployment. It therefore serves us well to look at tourism as a diversification opportunity for the continent’s economy because traditional sectors are experiencing challenges,” he stressed.
In welcoming participants to the 2017 INDABA, President Zuma noted how important it was for Africans to attend this forum that seeks to bring all practitioners in tourism on the continent together to have business meetings sitting across the same table.
“We welcome you with open arms, to the vibrant city of Durban, to the spectacular scenery and warm beaches of KwaZulu Natal and to the cultural melting pot of South Africa,” he said. “We are truly pleased to have our 21 sister countries exhibiting at this year’s travel INDABA.”
South Africa’s Minister for Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, pointed out the importance that tourism is to the South African economy and how improving the opportunities available in the sector would further help the economy to grow. “Tourism contributes 9% to GDP and creates 700,000 direct jobs,” she noted.
A new campaign by South African Tourism to raise awareness among the citizens that they should all get involved in promoting tourism, by knowing that whatever they do would contribute directly to the sector was launched by President Jacob Zuma.
He noted that the new campaign known as “I Do Tourism” would ensure that the country would realise its goal of making South Africa one of the top 20 destinations in the world and to ensure that the new growth strategy to attract five million more tourists in the next five years would be realized.
INDABA, which took place from May 16th to May 18th 2017, is one of the largest tourism marketing events on the African continent and one of the top three ‘must visit’ events of its kind on the global stage. It showcases the widest variety of Africa’s best tourism products and attracts international buyers and media from across the world.
INDABA is owned by South Africa’s tourism marketing and development organization, South African Tourism and would from hence be known formally as “Africa’s Travel Indaba” and will continue to be held in Durban for the next five years.
By Francis Doku, Durban, South Africa