Alain St.Ange, former Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports& Marine of Seychelles, discusses on ‘jumpstarting sustainable tourism in Africa’.
Tourism Is Not Just An Activity
Tourism is an industry and therefore tourism needs to be looked at with an eye that cares for the future of one’s country, and in so doing caring for the future of Africa. It is therefore important for every African to appreciate that they need to be seen as good custodians of what their respective country has been blessed with, these unique selling points (USPs) that continue to attract visitors to our shores must be protected if we want to see a long-term tourism industry, the cash crop for many African States.
Appreciating that Africa has it all, as a continent, to lure visitors to our shore, but yet we are the continent recording the smallest number of the travelling tourism market should not only shock us all, but it should make us wake up and realise what would happen if what we have as unique selling points was to disappear.
And knowing that they could disappear through a destructive practice of developing tourism not in a sustainable way in the first place and secondly by external circumstances such as a devastating weather pattern change, a hurting long-term pandemic, a prolonged war and a political climate that turns the country into a hell hole instead of a tourism paradise destination.
Africa is a mature continent and us Africans have grown to be realistic that we must learn to fend for ourselves. The time of ‘begging bowls’ is slowly becoming a tradition of the past.
Africa’s Tourism Industry should be salvaged fast and a political policy framework installed for a sustainable tourism approach.
What Should Africa Be Doing?
Africa must be looking at post-COVID 19 and or accelerated re-entry into the tourism world which the continent’s aviation industry so needs. The time for Africa to call in friends and relatives to occupy key positions in the continent’s governments must happen. The world over has been heard calling for ‘square pegs to be placed into square holes and round pegs into round holes’ because the luxury of the past where blunders and mismanagement were just overlooked will not be tolerated anymore as the people cannot pay any longer for incompetence.
This is being aired, bearing in mind that the specialists in each and every field needed for Africa are not just sitting and waiting for their government to wake up to appreciate them as qualified to help move the country forward. Other countries are always on the lookout for talent and expertise and it is just not a “sustainable development approach” to be the country that helped provide for the training and grooming of the new generation of experts to see them saying goodbye to greener pastures even though their heart remains in their country of birth. The saying is apt that you can take an ‘African out of Africa, but you cannot take Africa out of the African’ because home is home for each and every African.
This is the first urgent step Africa need to look at to ”jumpstart sustainable tourism in Africa’ – get square pegs into square holes and round pegs into round holes and this will get able country men to work for their home country to help turn the economy around.
The second important needed point is for Africa to know what its Unique Selling Point is. Knowing your country’s is a start, but important is also to know your neighbouring State’s Unique Selling Point is important, because sustainable tourism development is also maximising on the visitor’s presence on the continent. The luxury of a single destination holiday as the world reopens will be more difficult to maintain – cost, the financial situation of so many who want a holiday but are hurting from the effects of the COVID pandemic, air travel charges etc.
Every Tourism Board should be looking at teaming up with their regional counterparts for joint actions and promoting two or three centre holidays with airlines ensuring the holiday maker feels he is a winner.
The third and most critical point is to ensure that the political will does exist. A sustainable tourism label for Africa must be developed in conjunction with the African Tourism Board and the African Union. Today each country is doing their own thing and no grabbing of attention is evident as each country tries to tell the world that it is more conscious than ever before, that it is practicing a long-term sustainable tourism program. Africa must wake up and start writing its very own narrative.
Africans must be the seen to be good custodians of all it has been blessed with – this is the wild card it needs to play for itself and for its continent.