By Roland Ohaeri
Early September, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) threw light on a vital aspect of the tourism and travel industry, which is tourism investment. Of great challenge is the paucity of investment in the tourism sector in Africa, which has left many tourism potentials unexploited on the continent.
The UNWTO celebrated the second edition of the Global Tourism Investment Forum. Joining Ministers of Tourism for the event in Cabo Verde were business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors, with a special focus on innovation and sustainable recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the crisis causing levels of Foreign Direct Investment in tourism to plummet 73%, the Forum provided a platform for diverse stakeholders to support and promote investments in the sector. Panel discussions, led by leading experts from across the tourism and finance sectors, focused on “innovation and investment”. Alongside providing an analysis of the investment climate in African tourism, including in the case of Cabo Verde, the discussions also addressed potential measures for promoting sustainable investments, digitalization and innovations, the future of mobility and sustainable transport, as well as using targeted investments to drive economic recovery, job creation and resilience post COVID-19.
Unlocking Tourism’s Potential
While the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, assures of UNWTO’s commitment to tourism revival, he specifically states that “well targeted investments can stimulate entrepreneurship, create jobs and drive the green transformation of our tourism, in Africa and worldwide.”
The recovery of the tourism sector has the “potential to drive recovery and provide opportunity for all.”
The event was opened by José Ulisses de Pina Correia e Silva, Primer Minister Cabo Verde, and featured the participation of Tourism Ministers from across Africa as well as from Spain and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, investment bodies, multilateral funds, African regional economic communities, and from the private sector, including travel tech startups.
Highlighting the international nature of the Forum, more than ten investors came from Europe to Cabo Verde to explore investment opportunities focused on innovation and infrastructure. They were joined by investors from South Africa, and the USA, with all participants benefitting from unique networking opportunities on the tourism island of Sal. Investors included RIU Group, Plug & Play, Aguaduna, CMC XXI, QEV Tech Electromobility Holdings, TUI Care Foundation, ALESA Group, Grupo Piñero and Fundacion Metropoli.
Capacity Building And Partnerships
Importantly, the Forum also featured capacity building workshops focused on investments and innovation, alongside an overview of UNWTO’s Brand Africa initiative aimed at helping destinations across the continent harness the power of digital marketing to reach new audiences and attract visitors.
The Little Africa Maio Project was also presented as an effective example of directed foreign investment in tourism with the potential to deliver a wide range of economic, social and ecological benefits.
More strategic is the partnership signed mid-September 2021 between UNWTO and African Airlines Association (AFRAA), which will enhance closer collaboration of African airlines and tourism organisations to spur tourism development, as expected by Mr. Abderahmane Berthe, AFRAA Secretary General and Mr. Pololikashvili of UNWTO.
Africa’s Tourism Sustainability
Tourism investment figures for Africa are worrisome, and could only worsen without the right actions taken. Therefore, regular investment fora for tourism is the missing link to re-ignite the tourism development process across Africa, where lack of innovation has stagnated tourism development. However, local intra-tourism is a crucial factor that would draw attention to the huge tourism potential in Africa to be further accelerated by foreign support. Tourism development offers several African cultures the opportunity to avoid imminent extinction.
Africa’s predominantly natural sites embedded deep in rustic settings need be preserved by governments and allies by ensuring continued peaceful and welcoming environments which conduce to enriching cultural and tourism habitats. Besides, harmonized and duly non-restrictive COVID-19 protocols would spur tourism restart and development in Africa.