Alain St.Ange here discusses how Africa can take the lead in tourism and make its huge tourism potential work for the continent. As recovery in aviation and economic activities return, Africa must explore ways of making tourism even more attractive.
Q: You were the successful tourism minister of the Seychelles who turned tourism around to reach new heights. What are you doing now?
A: After my years in Government of the Seychelles that ended with me as the island’s Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine I ran to become the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in my country’s bid to get Africa to lead this UN Body, but politics can often bring out the worst that left our continent licking its wounds. But that is history, and after that UN Saga, I launched my very own Tourism Consultancy (Saint Ange Tourism Consultancy) and have been actively working with Tourism Boards, Ministries of Tourism and also the Private Sector groupings all over Africa and in the ASEAN Block.
This keep me very busy, and more so with the reopening of tourism in this post-covid era. I was also one of the three Presidential Candidates for our island nation in the 2020 Presidential Election because I was determined to use tourism and aviation to recreate a solid economy for Seychelles. I was not successful but the seeds sown to keep tourism alive with diversification possibilities within the tourism industry continues to be heard as discussion points on a daily basis. Today I continue to do what I love and deliver with passion and this is assisting tourism to grow where ever my expertise is called for.
Q: Tourism is no more the same as the pre-covid times. Your thoughts.
A: Tourism cannot be the same as before. Sitting on our past approaches and successf is only a remedy to disaster. Covid showed the world how fragile tourism and aviation was and how easily economies depending on this industry could find themselves in trouble. One can ask if we have learnt our lessons or if we are acting as ostriches and burying our heads in the sand hoping for the best. Nothing will happen by itself and if you are talking about our great continent of Africa we can all see approaches of the past and the inability for our States to call in their human assets beyond their political party lines and ‘place square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes’ and in so doing give the country a fighting chance to bring a break for our investors.
Q: This brings us to our burning question. Can the key tourism source markets of pre-covid be taken for granted, and is it time for a new impetus for Intra-Africa approaches?
A: Africa is the continent for the future. It has everything, but it is also not able to reap the benefits of what it has been blessed with for the benefit of it’s citizens. The first step for Africa to do is to get to know Africa and then decide for Africa to work with Africa. Out key tourism source markets are still salvageable, but they have their own challenges. They have a thirst for travel after the locked up two years, but their economy is going through difficult times, inflation is hitting them badly and the new Russia – Ukraine war has brought about new challenges. The reality check for 2022 onwards is saying loud and clear – reassess, re-plan, re-launch and to be more focused. Keeping a foot in each camp is today essential as we should be working to re-grab our key traditional tourism source markets as we should be energizing regional and continental options.
Uniting countries in marketing groups to create a new tourism destination as was done successfully in the Indian Ocean with the Vanilla Islands concept is today worth exploring, but opening doors to our very own Intra-Africa options is over necessary. African discerning travelers are good holiday makers and should be targeted and tourism and travel shows across Africa should be given new clout as this will give continental options to our continent’s potential travelers. Yes we have a lot of tidying up to do, but it can be done and if we take the line of President Obama of ‘Yes We Can’ ride on this wave and there will be a stronger re-bound of our continent’s industry.
Q: What sort of challenges and tidying are you talking about?
A: Africa needs to deliver on what we say we are. Value for money is more important than ever, and for Africa Governments to accept that tourists are not milking cows. We have to earn every dollar we make and stop dreaming of new taxes and fees. But we also need to go back to basics with inhouse training and assessments. Get outside help to bring the industry together as the saying of ‘No One Is A Prophet In His Own Country’ is also still true. Get the trade to embrace the need to relook at tourism with a post-covid eye and to accept the idea that tourism is not just our bread and butter, but that if can be a full breakfast if we are together as one in this needed public-private sector task force to deliver for our respective economies.