“Recovery of tourism in Africa could drive recovery of African economies”, said H.E. Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, in her address to the 63rd United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s Regional Commission for Africa (CAF). The first ever virtual meeting of the UNWTO’s CAF was held on 8 June 2020, with active participation of 140 participants from 30 countries, including 24 Ministers of Tourism and representatives of 10 international organizations.
Recovery and resilience were the central themes of the meeting which discussed the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism sector in Africa, improving the Continent’s resilience, stimulating tourism recovery and urgent mitigation measures and guidelines for the sector as key driver of sustainable development in the Continent.
In her address, Commissioner Abou-Zeid highlighted the importance of tourism industry to Africans economies as it employs over 20 million people, i.e. 6.5% of the total workforce and even 20% in some African countries – half of whom are women – and accounts for 8-10% of the continent’s GDP.
She explained that, not only the crisis has severely hit the sector bringing it to a standstill , but is also badly affecting Aviation — challenging the viability of african air transport as never before in history
Dr Abou-Zeid underlined that domestic and intra-African tourism are likely to cushion some of the negative impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on the sector. She called on Member States, RECs and regional organisations to step up efforts to promote and develop regional tourism in Africa within the African Union Tourism Strategic Framework 2019-2028 which was approved last year. The strategic framework is one of Africa’s flagship projects aiming at integrating the Continent through tourism and positioning Africa as the preferred tourist destination globally.
She also reminded the audience that supporting innovative digital solutions and platforms can provide powerful tools for a thriving and competitive African Tourism and emphasised the importance of green recovery and sustainable tourism.
“Africa tourism’s sector has proven its capacity to bounce back and multiply recovery to other sectors. We must jointly implement recovery plan and build a roadmap towards a sustainable, innovative & resilient African tourism” added Dr Abou-Zeid.
Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, the UNWTO’s Secretary-General said “In an unprecedented shock, the COVID-19 pandemic has cut international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2020 sharply down. Available data points to a double-digit decrease of 22% in Q1 2020, with arrivals in March down by 57%. This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about USD 80 billion in export revenues from international tourism in just three months. Arrivals to Africa in the first quarter are estimated to be down 12%.”
Addressing the meeting, Hon. Najib Balala, Minister of Tourism of Kenya & Chair the UNWTO Executive Council said “In the wake of this pandemic, Africa needs this wake-up call and this maybe our time. We have to build transport networks and infrastructure within the Continent, so that we can interlink and connect Intra-Africa and promote travel within Africa.”
Many African Ministers highlighted that tourism potential in Africa can turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity for intra-African tourism. They agreed on the urgent need to work together in designing a continental roadmap both for the response to the crisis and in preparation for the post-pandemic recovery.