Tourism in Africa is an important contributor to the development of economies in the region, it contributes much to the gross domestic products of different countries in Africa for example in Uganda, tourism contributes 6% to the national GDP, 7% to the GDP in Kenya and 8.3% of the Rwanda’s national gross domestic product and is a significant vehicle for the development of other sectors in African countries. These sectors include education, construction and agricultural sectors among other which are supported by the funds generated from tourism.
However despite of the contribution tourism has on economic development in Africa, it has been limited by several challenges such as infrastructure deficiency, perceived insecurity and negative publicity from the western media. African tourism needs to maximize tourism marketing and development through regional cooperation.
During a meeting held in Kigali, experts in tourism sector from the inter-governmental authority on development (IGAD), a regional bloc that includes governments from the horn of Africa, Nile valley and the great lakes discussed on how to market regional tourism products in eastern Africa and how to address the obstacles to regional tourism development. The three-day meeting was organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, sub-regional office for eastern Africa (UNECA, SRO-EA) and tourism bodies in the region.
The need of regional cooperation was the major gist of this meeting to market the destinations as one so as to maximize arrivals into the destination. We need to work together to improve every aspect of experience that we offer visitors from the time of arrival in Africa, during their movements within and across the countries, ensuring great customer care and quality experience as the most important aspect in the their services to the tourists.
The use of regional cooperation initiatives such as the East African visa, the use of identity cards, the open skies and the use of various plat forms for example the international fairs that promote joint marketing were believed to boost the intra-regional tourism in Africa, enhance regional tourism development and trade opportunities but however, there was need to upgrade the standards of these initiatives.
Tourism stake holders were introduced to another powerful marketing strategy; the use of social media such as face book, twitter, discussion forums and social publishing platforms (blogs and micro blogs) among others in order to promote tourism in their countries. These social media would bring all citizens in all countries together and keep them connected and updated about tourism in their countries.
Collaborative marketing was also called upon among these regions; this was aimed at marketing all regions in Africa as a single tourism destination for tourists to visit the whole of Africa as a single destination with various attractions and tourism potentials. This was because of difference in the level of development among countries and the fact that some regions were not considering tourism as the priority.
In addition, in order to ensure the lasting peace and security in the inter-governmental authority on development (IGAD), a sustainable tourism master plan that acts as a prerequisite for sustainable tourism development in East Africa was drawn up.
Tourism product diversification is an important factor raise at this meeting. Africa is blessed with the same wildlife, hence a great need to each country to create a unique brand which will attract a tourist to move from one destination to another, if Africa were to realize it growth targets. African countries were called upon to create more products that can work as complements basing on potential segments such as the traditional products, meetings, incentives, conferences and events among others to promote tourism in their regions different from other regions.
More still, the economic affairs officer for UNESCO. SRO-EA, Geoffrey Manyara, called upon countries to be creative in developing and standardizing high quality and special products that are attractive to their clients (tourists).
In Conclusion, African tourism has come a long way to international standards and is still growing.With stake holders meeting to promote the destination together, this could be the only missing link to whats lacking with Africa’s tourism.