OPINION: Exciting times for African tourism as countries pursue big initiatives
By: Samuel Obeng Appah
The bright lights of Africa’s tourism are gradually shinning again after they were nearly dimmed completely by the ravages of COVID-19.
Many countries on the continent have taken the necessary steps to invite tourists back to their countries by scrapping the prohibitive negative PCR test.
Since the turn of the year we have seen governments announce bold initiatives that if pursued diligently could see Africa’s tourism take a turn that makes it competitive and relevant to stakeholders.
A few of the big announcements are looked at below.
Uganda on January 21, launched a new destination brand identity to promote the country as a competitive tourism destination in the larger strategy of rebuilding, restarting and “more importantly, winning Uganda’s rightful place in the global tourism market.”
The new destination brand is “to harmonize messaging around all the positive Ugandan experiences into a consistent, credible, authentic and trusted promise and value proposition that tourists and the travel trade are not only willing to buy into but are happy and confident to recommend to their friends and family and their customers. The new brand identity is to also offer anchorage towards the objective of ‘Sustainably Promoting Uganda as a Competitive Tourism Destination for Inclusive Development.’
The President of the Republic of Liberia George Weah unveiled the country’s national tourism brand and marketing strategy in a ceremony in the capital, Monrovia on January 27. This momentous feat is part of the Government’s commitment to improving its economic growth and employment opportunities through tourism
At this year’s FITUR International Tourism Fair, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Tourism and Culture Memunatu Pratt unveiled the new brand identity of Sierra Leone Tourism.
The logo which is themed ‘’Explore Freedom’’ is part of the country’s tourism Covid recovery strategy to market the country.
Speaking at a media briefing at the launch, the Minister said, “Over the last year one year, the country has tried to rebrand Sierra Leone and wanted a brand logo that speaks to the unique tourism attributes of Sierra Leone such as eco-tourism, culture, beaches, gastronomy and many more.’’
South Africa is decidedly spearheading the global shift towards a “post-lockdown” global travel and tourism era. On March 1, the destination marketing organisation, South African Tourism, unveiled its first global audio-visual marketing campaign in five years.
Tourism Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu stated that “the goal is simple, albeit daunting under the circumstances – restore the sector to its pre-COVID-19 pinnacle and take it even higher. The aim is to use this to catapult South Africa’s tourism sector to the forefront of the country’s economic recovery effort and position South Africa as safe and secure destination.”
Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Sunday, 3rd April, launched a flagship project in tourism sector, dubbed “Destination Ghana”, in London, United Kingdom.
The “Destination Ghana” London event is the first in a series of activities of the “Destination Ghana” project, which has, at its core, the objective of inviting and welcoming the rest of the world to visit Ghana.
Building on the successes of the Year of Return, and with the slow but steady recovery being witnessed in the tourism sector, after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Akufo-Addo noted that interest in nature-based adventure and leisure tourism has grown, offering new opportunities to visitors.
In a bid to strengthen tourism in the country, Malawi leader President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera Monday, April 4, unveiled a mouth-watering $660 million tourism investment masterplan that will help map up the infrastructure development for the nation.
The project under the plan will be implemented under the Public-Private Partnership with African Development Bank.
The Malawi tourism masterplan follows the launch of the investment guild by the Tourism Ministry, which lists potential investments in the sector.
The above is a clear indication of the understanding that African leaders are beginning to have about the power tourism wields in transforming their economies. Traditional sectors that have been relied on are not as resilient to the shocks as tourism is to crisis such as Coronavirus.
The fact is irrespective of global economic downturn that is precipitated by whatever crisis there is, people will still eat, travel, have fun and do things that have tourism elements to them.
It is possible to reengineer African economies with tourism and the earlier governments to think along this line of reengineering, the better it would be for the continent as we shake off the Coronavirus conundrum and return to normalcy.
It is my fervent hope that all these bold initiatives are not left at the announcement stage only. Leaders must back them with the political will and frenetic gusto that they deserve to harness tourism potential to create wealth and extricate people from absolute poverty, unemployment and engender economic parity for all those involved while I call on other countries to follow suit.