September 18, 2014
The tourism industry in Africa must take advantage of what the continent has to offer as a whole. African countries also need to work together to improve ease of travel and to combat the international misconceptions on the spread of Ebola.
These are some of the sentiments SA Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, shared while speaking as part of a ministerial session at the recent 2014 Hotel Investment Conference Africa (HICA).
Hanekom said African countries had the benefit of being able to provide unique and diverse experiences that were not on offer anywhere else in the world.
“If we look at the South African economy, for example, we probably have two sectors where we genuinely have comparative advantage. It’s the mining sector, because we’re endowed with greater mineral wealth than any other country in the world, and the tourism sector. We’ve got quite a vibrant agricultural sector but it is not a natural advantage. The one area where we have a serious competitive advantage is tourism and it continues to grow.”
Hanekom said tourists were increasingly becoming concerned with social and environmental issues and wanted to see countries making a commitment to reducing the effects of climate change . He said it was up to the tourism sector to take care of natural resources and to conduct tourism responsibly.
He added that it was important for the Southern Africa Development Community region to assist each other in making it easier for tourists to travel across borders.
Hanekom said it was absurd that travelling between African countries was so much more difficult than travelling from an African city to Paris or London. He called for more effort to be put into connecting African countries and cities, organising visa facilitations, making border posts as “friendly” as possible and investing in infrastructure to facilitate travel between African countries.
Touching on the Ebola outbreak and the effect it has had on tourism in Africa, Hanekom said there was a propensity from the rest of the world to lump the African continent together so that when something happened in one part of the continent, it affected the entire continent.
“The Ebola epidemic affects South Africa, it affects Kenya, it affects the entire African continent. I’ll tell you why it affects us; one of the reasons is because there is a strange irony here. While this African continent is very large, yes, in the minds of people abroad, it is very small too.”
Hanekom also highlighted the fact that the continent was on growth path, arguing that there had been serious advances toward political stability and democratisation. He said this was not always seen, but instead the problem areas were focused on. He added that negative reports had to be countered collectively, as a continent, to avoid hurting the tourism industry.
Article source: www.tourismupdate.co.za