New regional tourism master plan launched in Nairobi

IGAD LAUNCHES REGIONAL TOURISM MASTER PLAN

(Posted 10th December 2013)

After nearly three years of preparation, 2 regional workshops (Addis Ababa in June 2012 and Kampala in October 2012) and several national consultative workshops, private and public sector interaction on national and regional level and a peer review, was yesterday the IGAD – short for Intergovernmental Authority on Development – regional Sustainable Tourism Master Plan launched. The two day meeting, held at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Convention Centre, was attended by tourism ministers and ministry representatives from across the IGAD member states, namely host country Kenya, Uganda, The Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.

Formally launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta will the document, which covers the period 2013 – 2023, provide a blue print for the IGAD region how to use tourism for economic development and how to make tourism sustainable, upholding green principles and having local communities participate and benefit as a tool of poverty reduction.

Commissioned by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa / Eastern Africa Subregion

The Executive Summary’s introduction outlines the broad objectives of the master plan and reads as follows:

‘The Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (STMP) is guided by the aim, objectives and principles of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The main aim of the IGAD is to expand the areas of regional co-operation, increase the members’ dependency on one another and promote policies of peace and stability in the region in order to attain food security, sustainable environment management and sustainable development. The Master plan is also further informed by the Africa Union (AU) Minimum Integration Programme (MIP), an instrument geared towards achieving the wider goal of the African Economic Community. In addition, the AU, through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) 2004 Tourism Action Plan Africa recognises the important role that tourism can play in socio-economic development and poverty alleviation and that through trans-boundary activities it can be an effective vehicle for regional integration. Importantly, the STMP is as a result of strong recommendations of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Sub-Regional Office for East Africa’s (SRO-EA) 15th Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) meeting themed, Towards a Sustainable Tourism Industry in East Africa, on the need for a regional framework for tourism development in the region.

On the basis of the above backdrop, the main aim of the IGAD STMP is to provide member states with a regional framework for sustainable tourism development with a view to contribute to socio-economic development and poverty alleviation and to promote regional integration. More specifically the STMP seeks to: outline the importance of tourism development in the region; analyse in detail the prevailing scenario of tourism development; and to provide a detailed roadmap for the implementation of strategies and actions.

The STMP is further guided by the following underlying principles:

tourism development should be sustainable providing both inter- generational and intra-generational equity;

the master plan should provide a vision for tourism development in the region; the master plan should enhance the competitiveness of the IGAD region as tourist destination;

tourism development strategies should be in line with the wider national, regional, continental and international development initiatives and economic development plans; and

tourism development should be guided by sound research.’

The master plan touches on crucial issues such as the need to harmonize the policy and regulatory framework among the member countries, where tourism was acknowledged to be at vastly different development stages. Kenya and Uganda are clearly leading among the member states, others like Ethiopia have made some progress towards establishing a viable tourism industry while others have, inspite of a wide range of natural and cultural resources which could support a vibrant tourism sector, no tourism industry worth mentioning or one which is in the very infancy of development. Connectivity among member countries by air, Visa regulations, foreign exchange limitations and a range of national restrictions placed on travellers are seen as some of the main obstacles towards having tourism thrive, as are broad security issues vis a vis some of the IGAD member states.

Towards that end were a total of 9 action points and strategies were outlined in the document, aimed to gradually start a process of extending support from the region’s tourism power houses Kenya and Uganda to those countries which lack sound tourism policies, regulatory and legal frameworks, tourism related infrastructure, human resource development levels in terms of training facilities and actual skills among the workforce and not the least the accounting mechanisms to capture tourism data and interpret them correctly as done under the Tourism Satellite Accounting system.

The proposed cost to accomplish all outlined tasks was according to the document given as nearly 40 million US Dollars, and considering how poorly national governments are facilitating tourism where the sector already makes significant contributions to the respective national economies, it is generally an open question just how much of those funds can be generated on national level and how much of it will have to come from development partners, on multi- or bilateral development support basis and if in fact other national priority sectors like health and education will be willing to share the limited national resource cake with a new comer sector, which while full of potential in several IGAD member countries has literally no track record.

Access to the full report by interested parties should in due course be possible via www.uneca.org or through the national tourism ministries across the 8 IGAD member states.

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