Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete addressed ministers from several African nations, along with travel and tourism professionals from around the world, at last week's 10th Annual Africa Travel Association Presidential Forum on Tourism. "The current world tourism trends present plenty of opportunities for Africa going forward...which means Africa must do more, and do better at, promoting growth of the tourism sector." Attendees and high-level representatives raised three major challenges to tourism growth that can also be viewed as areas of opportunity.
The illegal wildlife trade directly threatens one of Africa’s most valuable assets: wildlife. Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Amina Mohamed, emphasized the importance of ending demand from wealthy markets around the world, noting poaching is not only an African issue, but a global issue. Tanzania's Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandi, stressed the importance of cross-border cooperation in order to better protect the movement of wildlife, citing the successful outcomes of Tanzania's partnership with Kenya at the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park borders. He also mentioned Tanzania and Mozambique have signed a bilateral agreement to protect 110,000 square kilometers of the the Selous - Niassa Corridor, an important elephant habitat.
In an afternoon round table discussion, CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg posed a question regarding the delayed implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision across the continent. While several Ministers discussed the failure of state-owned airlines and appeared optimistic about the introduction of open skies in their respective countries, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, Phyllis Kandie, offered the most decisive answer of the bunch when she stated Kenya will open its skies in 2017. She also advised talks with Delta are underway, a clear indication that a non-stop flight from the U.S. to Nairobi is close to fruition.
From terrorist attacks, to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, confidence levels across foreign source markets has decreased in 2015. According to the UNWTO, the first half of this year has already showed an approximate 6% decline in tourist arrivals across the continent. Uganda’s Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Maria Mutagamba, urged international leaders and tourism professionals to more proactive in promoting Africa’s tourism potential. Dr. Yaw Nyarko, Director of NYU’s Africa House (a co-sponsor of the event), later mentioned how, in twenty to thirty years, Africa will be the youngest and largest continent. Africa’s tech-savvy youth will certainly play a greater role in promoting the contemporary Africa travel experience. Earlier this year, a 17-year old Ghanaian girl looking to discourage popular misperceptions began posting photos of the "real" Africa using the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou, which has now accumulated over 100k Tweets and 6,970 Instagrams. As President Kikwete stressed, "Your voice...carries a lot of weight. Please use it for our mutual benefit."