Practitioners in Africa’s tourism, hospitality and travel industries on Wednesday urged African leaders to create favourable policies that could guarantee seamless travels within the region.
The practitioners said during the PYNE-NESG Africa conference that tourism in the continent was lagging behind, due to difficulties Africans experience in their quest to travel within the region.
They said it was time African leaders waded into the problem, proffered solutions and ensured that the continent developed its tourism industry optimally.
Alex Nwuba, President, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria, said the penetration of tourism in Africa was less than five per cent when some other countries had occupied over 95 per cent.
Nwuba said Africa had not been able to yield the dividend of tourism due to problems like insecurity, expensive air and bus fares, lack of sufficient tourism budget, lack of tourism education, unsuitable policies and governance.
He advocated for a change in tourism policies and their implementation, so they would be capable of boosting movement of persons.
Nwuba said the AFCFTA dictates had focused so much on movement of goods with minimal attention on persons who invariably move the goods.
He urged Africans to cultivate the habit of travelling within the region to guide against capital flight, as they took conscious efforts to build African economy.
“Africa is at the centre of the world with the most beautiful nature, weather, beaches, deserts and all animals that do not exist anywhere in the world.
“We have all it takes to be world leaders in tourism but our policies must be looked into, we must make favourable policies that can guarantee seamless travels. Without free movement of persons, tourism cannot thrive.
“As Africans we must be hospitable, build trust within the African union. We must also learn from one another as well as collaborate to achieve greatness.
“Unless we open up the continent, domestic tourism will not work as well as intra-regional trade,” he said
Nwuba advocated culture shift in management of operational barriers to the development of tourism.
Also speaking, Julie Scott, President, SKAL International Council, urged African leaders to consider opening the skies within the region such that Africans would not have to get Visas to travel within the region.
Scott said Africans must learn to trust one another to make progress.
Malawi’s Tourism Minister, Vera Kamtukule, said “we are guiding our territories too much, it is an anomaly that must be corrected, AFCFTA will not work if we do not remove barriers, we need to look at value addition.
“Once new and favourable policies are made for seamless intra-Africa travels, the customs and immigration must be made to align with the policies.
“Tourism infrastructures must be harmonised across the continent, sustainability must be created. African leaders must be intentional about boosting domestic tourism.”
Earlier, Amaka Amatokwu-Ndekwu, founder and convener, PYNE Africa Tourism Convention, said the conference was necessary to harmonise suggested policies that could help achieve seamless travels within Africa.
Amatokwu-Ndekwu noted that it was worrisome to observe that Africa with huge tourism potential is still lagging behind.
She said all recommendation generated during the conference would be forwarded to all African leaders to act on.
She explained that this was the reason the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) was involved.
For Mrs Ngozi Ngoka, Thematic Lead, Tourism and Hospitality Industries Thematic Group (NESG), the outcome of the conference would be, to achieve profitable and sustainable tourism industry in Africa.
” We hope to increase tourism numbers in Africa through collaborations between countries and well defined synergy between tourism, culture, sports and the creative industries,” she said.