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Tourism industry turnaround needs smart choices

October 19, 2022

Africa’s tourism recovery from the Covid-19, and resilience from future health crises must bank on rural development and climate smart investments to plug the continent out of current risks.

Participants at a three-day conference organised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in Arusha last week admitted that the region’s tourism prospects now look better after most of the Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed.

They admitted the risks for the sector are massive and will require targeted investments and a diversification of the sector.

UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said that while tourism in Africa was bouncing back, the agency is working with local authorities to ensure other risks are addressed. These include launching climate change mitigation measures, development of rural communities within tourism areas, attracting regional tourists as well as encouraging innovation and investments in the sector.

Tourism in Africa depends largely on national parks, beaches and other natural sites. And countries bank on foreign tourist inflows to keep the sector afloat. For instance, when Covid-19 struck and flights were cancelled, some operators closed shop.

The conference agreed that rural communities need dissuading from raiding national parks, to ensure protected areas remain so. This can be done by giving those communities incentives, say, by sharing some revenues with them and ensuring proper infrastructure is established.

Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Dr Pindi Chana, said they were encouraging cultural tourism that would give the local populace an opportunity to benefit from their heritage.

Income generated from cultural tourism would be spent by locals on specific development programmes and social services in their area, she said.

Cultural tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments of the industry as it intersects with heritage and religious sites, crafts, performing arts, gastronomy, festivals and special events.

theeastafrican