AFRICA NEWS | Volume 17. September 2020
Right now, governments around the world are concentrating their efforts on re-opening their borders and restarting tourism, all against the backdrop of the COVID-19 health crisis. In Africa, the easing of lockdown measures alongside the gradual lifting of travel restrictions means that the socio-economic benefits of tourism and travel are slowly returning.
As covid-19 continues to reshape the tourism ecosystem, African destinations need to address the health and safety challenges posed by the pandemic to remain competitive. I would therefore like to commend Member States for their genuine efforts in this regard. Governments have reacted swiftly and taken a range of effective measures, through their fiscal and monetary policies as well as through supporting jobs and skills, boosting market intelligence and utilizing public and private partnerships to address the heath crisis and support the sector with funds and grants. They have also been supporting the ingenuity of locally-based and innovative solutions.
Nonetheless, the spread and complexity of the virus poses challenges that will require several factors to be taken into consideration. UNWTO and the Global Tourism Crisis Committee have worked jointly on a set of key recommendations and our Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism will support both the public and private sectors in the difficult months ahead.
It has been encouraging to see that many countries across Africa have already taken concrete steps in line with these guidelines and have adapted them to their own unique circumstances in a consistent and harmonized manner. It is also encouraging to see that many have established enhanced protocols as well as introducing monitoring systems at the local level.
Furthermore, in our efforts to support tourism recovery in Africa and to respond to the immediate needs of our Member States, we have conducted several webinars, master classes, workshops and closed meetings on several themes relating to the UNWTO 2030 Agenda for Africa. A recent online survey allowed us to identify the priority areas of the Agenda that Members wanted us to re-align in order to better respond to the challenge of COVID-19. Themes such as crisis communications, Brand Africa, resilience and security in tourism and capacity building are the key areas that will help consumers regain confidence in the sector when they resume travel.
Since the 63rd Regional Commission for Africa that was scheduled to be held in the Republic of Seychelles could not be hosted as planned, we had to conduct our Commission meeting virtually for the very first time
The outcomes of the well-attended meeting emphasized the need to reorient the activities of the Agenda for Africa with a focus on developing domestic, intra-and inter-regional tourism to boost the sector. Other areas to consider include product diversification, investing in innovation and the digitalization of the sector, and also strengthening cooperation and collaboration among member states on safe and seamless travel and data sharing.
In addition to the Global Guidelines, the UNWTO COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Technical Assistance Package will help Members and tourism stakeholders reorient their marketing strategies and make their tourism sectors more efficient and profitable. This package is structured around three main pillars, namely economic recovery, marketing and promotion, and institutional strengthening and building resilience. Currently more than 60% of our work in the region is related to technical projects and I would like to encourage member states to take fully advantage of this.
In addition, new initiatives have been launched such as one focusing on African Gastronomy that can be a tool for economic growth and job creation and the UNWTO Inspiration Africa Branding Challenge. For the latter, I would like to use this opportunity to encourage start-ups from the region to submit their proposals and at the same time congratulate Jirani’s Food, a Kenyan online food start-up and one of the winners of the UNWTO Gastronomy Tourism challenge in the category of social impact.
Finally, though today we are faced with a health pandemic that has important economic as well as social impacts, we have seen a number of positive things emerging through these challenging times. I urge all stakeholders to continue to embrace this enormous challenge positively and to keep pushing towards a swift recovery for our sector.
Regional Department for Africa