UNWTO set to host pan-African confab on tourism Monday

Posted: October 16, 2012 in travel & tourism

In its commitment to promote the development of sustainable tourism in Africa and raise the profile of nature-based tourism in the continent, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is set to organize the First Pan African Conference on Tourism to take place in Tanzania Monday

According to a UNWTO media release, the conference, the first of its kind to take place in Africa, will be held in Tanzania’s northern tourist city of Arusha from Monday, October 15 to 18 and draw participants across the African continent.

Nature-based tourism, also known as eco-tourism, is a large and growing global activity, based to a large extent on natural assets and biodiversity made up of wildlife and scenery, an area in which African destinations often have a strong competitive advantage, UNWTO sources said.

“Tourism can provide additional resources for biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of public and private land. If managed in an integrated and efficient manner, parks can make a significant contribution to a country’s economy with benefits in terms of job creation, foreign exchange generation, and the stimulation of a local business culture,” the UNWTO message said.

This first conference aims to promote “park tourism” as one of the core components of national park management in Africa and build an overview of the current challenges facing park tourism in terms of demand and supply chains within the overall context of pressing development challenges.

The balance between environmental and cultural protection and tourism development involves important policy and management issues as well as a regulatory framework in order to sustain a high-quality visitor experience.

Despite the high potential for sustainable tourism development, many of Africa’s national parks and protected areas suffer from constraints like lack of public policy recognition, lack of integrated planning, and lack of effective governance.

Other constraints are the limited management expertise and commercial skills, limited scientific expertise for biodiversity management, poor infrastructure and transport facilities, and inadequate tourism products and distribution channels.

Poor accommodation and lack of quality in superstructure, limited economic and social benefits to the surrounding communities, and negative consumer image on safety and security are the other constraints facing development of tourism in Africa, UNWTO said.

Bearing a theme, “Tourism Management in National Parks and Protected Areas: Challenges and Opportunities,” the Pan African Conference will also address issues aimed at making a better position of “park tourism” as an essential and integrated component of overall national park management in Africa.

Other issues to be discussed are the government policies and tourism master plans recognizing national parks as tourism destinations, “responsible tourism” approach, biodiversity management, market intelligence, segmentation, statistics, and reliable analysis.

Participants will also deliberate issues on product portfolios and new product development, distribution channels and regional synergies for promotion, accessibility and infrastructure development, soft investment and incentives economic, and social benefits to the local community.

Key speakers at the conference are Mrs. Sylvanna Antat, Research Officer, Seychelles National Parks Authority, Seychelles; Mr. Allan Kijazi, Director General, Tanzania National Parks; Dr. Justus Muumba, Manager Community Development, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, Tanzania; Mr. Mateus Mutemba, Gorongosa Park Warden, Mozambique; and Mr. Johnson Sipitiek, Program Manager Conservation Development Program, African Conservation Center, Nairobi, Kenya.

Other notable speakers are Mr. Geoffrey Manyara, Senior Regional Tourism Adviser, UNECA Sub-Region Office for Eastern Africa, Ghana; Mr. David Semu, Country Sales Manager, Serena Hotels Tanzania; and Mr. Vincent Makamure, General Manager, The Stanley and Livingstone Hotel in Zimbabwe; among others from across Africa.

Ahead of the Pan African Conference in Tanzania, UNWTO has partnered with Casa Africa, a Spanish government institution mandated to foster stronger ties between Spain and Africa.

“This agreement will allow UNWTO and Casa Africa to reinforce Africa’s capacity to employ tourism as an effective instrument of socio-economic development and poverty reduction,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

“Activities will be undertaken to support better tourism policies in Africa, as well as to create employment opportunities through increased investment in, and marketing of, African destinations,” Dr. Rifai added.

The agreement formalizes the already on-going collaboration between UNWTO and Casa Africa, which stretches back to 2010 with the creation of the Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa (INVESTOUR).

Held annually at the international Spanish tourism trade fair, FITUR, in the capital Madrid, INVESTOUR aims to increase the visibility of Africa as a tourism destination and mobilize investment for sustainable tourism projects in the region.

“There are huge business opportunities in the Africa tourism sector,” said Mr. Martínez-Caro, “This initiative allows Spanish businesses to sit down with their African counterparts and invest in viable tourism projects in Africa.”

To date, over 40 African countries have participated at INVESTOUR, opening up their destinations to the Spanish outbound and investment market. The 4th edition of INVESTOUR will take place on January 31 next year.

International tourism in Africa has almost doubled since 2000, growing from 26 million international tourist arrivals to 50 million last year.

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