Summit sounds call for standardised travel protocol for swift tourism recovery

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  • Panelists call for minimum and standardised protocols for travel across African continent
  • Invest in enablers for tourism so that when travel reopens, Africa is ‘ready’

African governments must work together to define a standardised travel protocol if tourism is to recover swiftly and deliver the economic benefits that are so critical for the continent.

That was the overarching message of the recent African Tourism Investment Summit (ATIS), hosted by African Tourism Investment Summit (ITIC) and World Travel Market Africa (WTM Africa) at Africa Travel Week (ATW) which featured no fewer than nine incredible ministerial and investment expert panel discussions and presentations.

Sounding the call for collaboration, ITIC Chair and former Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Dr Taleb Rifai said it would take five years for 70% of the world’s population to be vaccinated and that it would be impractical to pin tourism’s hopes on this before travel could resume in earnest.

“We cannot face this as individual governments. We have to work together and not just Ministers of Tourism, but also Ministers of Health, of Transport. African Governments must work together and create a minimum procedure and protocol for travel. We can’t have one country insisting on quarantine, its neighbour insisting on vaccinations and a third one requiring testing. There has to be a standardised minimum level of procedures that are agreed upon for travel to be possible. There’s no other way.”

Taleb’s view was widely supported by the various ministers and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) President and CEO Gloria Guevara who called for an international mobility programme to deliver the certainty required for travel.

“We cannot consider entire countries as infected and thus quarantined, so there is a need to move from country assessment to individual assessment. If we could have agreement among the countries in Africa, we could resume international travel and bring back travellers and jobs,” said Guevara whose recommendation for Africa would be to define clear rules and to work together to put together a mobility protocol.

Hon. Ian Liddell-Grainger, Vice Chair of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, advocated for widespread access to vaccines and called for a “team effort” to get “tourism up and running swiftly”, while sounding a caution about variants.

“One of the things we are trying to do is open up tourism without taking variants to countries that don’t have them and, conversely, bring back variants that are not covered by existing vaccines. Variants must be identified and South Africa is a prime example. They identified a variant, got it out to the world and we know now that the vaccinations cover that variant. That’s how it’s done.”

On the topic of investor confidence, Hon. Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary, Kenya Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, said this would only be achieved through collaboration. Minister Balala bemoaned the current narrative painted about Africa and variants, saying that red-listing countries and hoarding vaccines was not ‘healthy’.

“If there is a problem in Kenya or South Africa, we should pull together and find solutions. This is not a problem for one country, this is a global problem because variants will spread throughout the world. First we need to address those issues before we can talk about investment because investment withdraws when there’s uncertainty.”

Balala highlighted that Africa should focus its current efforts on building infrastructure that supports and enables Tourism so that “we invest in today for tomorrow” so that “when the world reopens, we can say that we are ready for it”.

Reiterating their support for Africa and willingness to enter into dialogue, Hon. Sofia Zacharaki, Greece Deputy Minister of Tourism said that the country was invested in the promotion of ‘mutual tourism investments based on sustainability and environmental protection’, as well as ‘special initiatives supporting joint ventures between Greek and African businesses, a framework providing exchange of knowledge and the development of specialised and alternative forms of tourism’.

Held under the banner of Invest, Rebuild and Restart, ATIS has the common purpose of assisting African countries and worldwide delegates in helping propel growth in travel and tourism through innovation in products, destination marketing and investment in sustainable development and infrastructure.

Included in the line-up was a presentation on Destination and Tourism Projects in Africa that are seeking investment, introduced by Paul Hoskins, Director ITIC Ltd and Invest Tourism Ltd. Projects to the value of US$2.5 billion were presented, from nature immersion experiences and a smart city in Mauritius to the Billionaire’s Bay opportunity on the outskirts of Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire.

The virtual event also brought together speakers from the European Union, Commonwealth, Malaga, Greece, Jamaica and China, all of whom expressed their willingness to collaborate with Africa on its tourism recovery.

Mr. Ibrahim Ayoub, Group CEO of ITIC and Organiser of the Africa Tourism Investment Summit with WTM Africa, said: “ITIC is proud to contribute on rebuilding and restarting the travel and tourism industry in Africa. We have laid the foundation stones for the next two summits (24 June and 1-3 September 2021) and will continue the dialogue on the challenging current issues which will enable project owners and investors to realise their vision for a sustainable and inclusive future development for the benefits of all Africans. The Covid-19 vaccination campaigns will act as the catalyst in an early recovery of the African continent, hopefully by the third quarter of 2021.

“The in-person meeting in Cape Town on 1-3 September 2021 will bring together African Ministers of Tourism so as to elaborate a common action plan to accelerate that recovery. We look forward to standing united in writing together another page of the history of the continent.”

According to Megan Oberholzer, Reed Exhibitions ‎Portfolio Director – Travel, Tourism & Creative Industries, the need to connect is there. “We are really excited about our collaboration with ITIC and the events that we will be co-hosting in the next few months. We look forward to the suggestions that will be made on the collaboration in Africa and the tourism investment opportunities.”

The Africa tourism Investment Conference will be held on Thursday, 24 June 2021. The third event will take place physically from 1 to 3 September, when ITIC and WTM Africa host ‘Africa Live’ in Cape Town. This event will provide project owners, investors and financiers the opportunity to meet in person, in individual deal rooms where selected participants are able to showcase their development projects and funding requirements to prospective funders.

The conferences will help drive international awareness and investments in Africa and surrounding island destinations and act as a catalyst for growth. It will attract private equity firms, institutional investors, fund managers and influencers, who have the power to channel capital and to raise funds by using key regional stock exchanges to raise and structure the funds to invest in live and bankable tourism projects.

The objective is to make tourism a driver to boost and develop the other industries within the eco-system in a sustainable manner. This includes SMEs from other sectors that support the tourism industry.

For more information on WTM Africa Virtual, visit: www.wtm.com/africa

For more information about the ITIC WTM Africa Virtual Summit, visit https://itic.uk/programmeiticwtmafrica2021/