Africa must sort out Visa requirements and air connections says Dr. Taleb Rifai


(Posted 25th January 2014)

UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai has on the occasion of FITUR and INVESTOUR in Madrid taken the opportunity to once again speak to the assembled tourism ministers from the African continent who had come to lead their respective delegations to Spain’s most important tourism trade show and investment symposium. As previously reported here did tourism arrivals for Africa grow last year at an impressive 6 percent, inspite of the political problems in North Africa and especially Egypt, with numbers growing to 56 percent. This represents a doubling of arrival numbers since the year 2000 and UNWTO projects that by 2030 this number could rise to over 134 million tourist visitors.

INVESTOUR, organized by UNWTO, FITUR and Casa Africa, promotes Africa´s tourism potential and the sector’s importance as a catalyst of socio-economic development through partnerships with Portuguese and Spanish tourism companies. Attending the Forum were the Ministers of Tourism of Algeria, Benin, Cape Verde, Cote D´Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal, Seychelles, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Tourism is of rising importance to the African economies. Today we will focus on three barriers still hampering the full potential of tourism in the region: air connectivity, visa facilitation and hotel investment’ said UNWTO Secretary-General, Dr. Taleb Rifai, when opening the event before adding: ‘56 visas to visit 56 countries is not acceptable. Only with collective efforts can we successfully address such barriers and continue to promote tourism in Africa as a tool for development while stimulating new business opportunities in Spain and Portugal’.

This year, a record of 134 tourism initiatives from 32 African countries and 40 Spanish and Portuguese companies gathered at INVESTOUR. A significant number of the participating projects seek to develop sustainable tourism offers in countries such as Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, Kenya and Rwanda while several other projects sought partners for the creation or renewal of the hotel infrastructure.

Dr. Rifai has during his first term of office emerged as a champion of African sustainable tourism developments and was last year, during the General Assembly held jointly in Zimbabwe and Zambia, re-elected to a second term of office with the unanimous vote by the African countries lining up behind him. Representing Eastern and Central Africa and the Indian Ocean islands on the UNWTO Executive Committee is the Seychelles’ Minister for Tourism and Culture Alain St. Ange, who was present at the occasion in Madrid and the organization’s Executive Director for Africa is Elsia Grandcourt, the former CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, also reflecting the increasingly vocal role the Seychelles have played over the past few years to bring African tourism countries together, map out joint strategies and spur cooperation among the island countries and the mainland. Watch this space for regular UNWTO updates related to Africa.

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