United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) secretary-general ,Zurab Pololikashvili has stressed to African tourism and environment ministers the need for the continent to embrace the key principles of sustainable tourism practices.
“It’s not just about being altruistic. It makes economic sense. Indications are that the number of travellers staying in eco-friendly or ‘green’ accommodation could double with 65% of global travellers expressing this intention versus 34% who stayed in one or more in 2016,” he said at a meeting of African ministers of Tourism in Berlin.
The ministers were meeting to finalise a strategy to promote sustainability and responsibility in tourism through their government tourism or environmental agencies.
The meeting came amid lack of interest by African governments to enforce sustainable tourism, which was largely led by the private sector.
“Where tourists stay on holiday plays a pivotal role in the enjoyment of their trip, so it also plays an increasingly important role in helping people to travel sustainably,” Pololikashvili said.
The UNWTO chief said sustainable tourism was an initiative the United Nations Specialised Agency for Tourism, has been mandated to facilitate.
His role was to promote tourism’s role in five key areas such as inclusive and sustainable economic growth; social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction; resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change; cultural values, diversity and heritage, and mutual understanding, peace and security.
Pololikashvili said the key focus areas for the development of the tourism sector in Africa, was to mobilise and respond in a targeted way to requests of individual African member countries in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals geared towards poverty alleviation.
UNWTO regional director, Elcia Grandcourt said their agenda for Africa was to deliver on key priority areas for the region by innovatively approach the acceleration of development of the tourism sector.
“International tourist arrivals in Africa are expected to grow from 58 million to 134 million in the next couple of years. So Africa must be prepared for the quantum leap forward,” Grandcourt said.
“Our focus, therefore, is to advocate the brand Africa; promote travel facilitation i.e. connectivity and visas; strengthening tourism statistics systems; expanding of capacity building; promoting innovation and technology; advancing the sustainability agenda; empowering youth and women in tourism and promoting cultural heritage among others.”
Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira said sustainable tourism was everyone’s concern, and it was important to raise awareness among travellers and highlight the practical initiatives that destinations in Africa have implemented in their respective countries.
“Tourism is dynamic with phenomenal potential in Africa. If we manage it properly, it can contribute immensely to diversification and inclusion for vulnerable communities. With the same thinking Zimbabwe and Angola will sign a memorandum of association anytime soon. Zimbabwe is open for business and must return to be the preferred tourist destination,” she said.
“Air connectivity is important if tourists are to influx in Zimbabwe. They don’t want to travel for over 10 hours, especially if they can travel for shorter distances using direct flights. British tourists want to fly directly to Harare, but we don’t have any connectivity. We want more airlines to come into Zimbabwe. We are engaging all airlines.”
Other ministers also indicated the need to relax visa controls to make easier for African citizens to travel without hassles.