Key issues for African tourism identified at TCN’s panel debate at WTM

Wednesday November 21, 2018

We are now well into what has been identified as ‘Africa’s Century’ but is tourism doing all it should in making this a reality? What are the opportunities and the challenges to progress?

Seeking some answers to these big questions, the Tourism Consultants Network hosted a lively panel discussion directly from the floor of the Africa and Middle East hall on the final day of 2018’s World Travel Market. This was the seventh year that TCN have organised a debate involving leading experts from the global tourism community, and once again all seats were filled.

Coming respectively from government, conservation and the travel industry, our three distinguished speakers were Belise Kariza, Chief Tourism Officer, Rwanda Development Board, Cathy Dean, CEO of Save the Rhino, and Gillian Saunders, Special Advisor to the Tourism Minister, South Africa. They needed little prompting from TCN’s moderator Tom Buncle to make some powerful points supported by persuasive data.

While it was agreed that the challenges remain daunting, and Africa attracts no more than 5% of global international arrivals, the underlining message was one of optimism and opportunity, with enormous potential for growth not least between African countries.  Some key take-aways from our discussions included:

  • Addressing the complete picture. With a strategy driving action across the board – safety and security, new infrastructure, enhanced connectivity, conserving the assets and engaging local people, as well as creative marketing – Rwanda has become a new beacon for Africa and is now ranked as one of the best countries globally for doing business.
  • Using the power of tourism to save Africa’s wildlife. Faced with a serious increase in poaching, much more should be done to raise awareness of the importance of wildlife tourism to national economies and local communities and to deliver on this message, with the informed support of visitors and tourism enterprises.
  • Strengthening collaboration and linkages within Africa.   Greater cooperation between countries in Africa is the key to tacking many issues, including liberalisation of air services within the continent, raising awareness of themes and product diversity, building domestic and regional markets, promoting visa openness, and addressing environmental challenges and sustainability.

For the Tourism Consultants Network, the session clearly demonstrated the ongoing need for tourism experts in various disciplines to engage with these challenging and exciting issues, building on the considerable experience of our members in many African countries. 

Richard Denman, FTS and TCN member