• Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Accra Weizo: Experts point way for African tourism, travel

Accra Weizo: Experts point way for African tourism, travel

Experts from the African travel market have pointed out ways Africa can leverage technology to grow travel and tourism across the continent and the world at large.

The global tourism industry is currently being transformed by a number of technologies, including virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and social media amongst others.

Key players in the sector say tourism enterprises must therefore embrace digitalization and innovation after post covid to drive sustainable and inclusive growth of tourism in Africa.

Speaking during the 6th Accra Weizo one-day conference in Accra Ghana, a travel expo that seeks to grow seamless travel in West Africa with the theme: Tourism Development Through Digitalization: Is The Sub-Region Ready?, Ekow Sampson, the Deputy, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Tourism Authority, said there is no better time than now for Africa to embrace technology to grow the sector.

Sampson stated that since the transition from the analogue system, the process of capturing travellers’ data on board, arrival and departure, sales of tickets and bookings, there had been a quantum leap in sales in the tourism and travel eco-system and this must be sustained.

“Tourism and development through digitalization are appropriate because tourism and technological advancement has been tightly inter-woven for the past 25 years.

“The first West African pilot to fly the Airbus A380, Solomon Quainoo emphasized on air connectivity within the region and the continent to speed up tourism development.

“We are already behind as we need to play catch up and the best way we can do that is to encourage ourselves, empower local businesses and let us work together to develop our aviation”.

Sampson, said in 2020, over 62 million jobs were lost in the tourism sector, and spending by domestic and international visitors declined by nearly 50 percent and 70 percent, respectively.

Sampson said the COVID-19 pandemic restricted the free movement of people, goods and services and negatively impacted global tourism inflows, and receipts, and created job losses.

He explained that prior to COVID-19, the global tourism sector which was nearly three times larger than agriculture, amounted to 10.3 percent of the world’s GDP, approximately $9.6 trillion, adding that in 2019, international visitors spent
approximately $1.8 trillion, which represented 6.8 percent of total exports.

He further disclosed that in the same year, the sector accounted for one-quarter of all new jobs created globally and made up 10.3 percent of all jobs, totaling 333 million.

“COVID-19 severely impacted the tourism sector, reducing its contributions to the global GDP by nearly half in 2020, and subsequently recovering slowly in 2021 to a total global GDP contribution of $5.8 trillion.

“In 2020, over 62 million jobs were lost in the tourism sector, and spending by domestic and international visitors declined by nearly 50 percent and 70 percent, respectively, he said.

He noted that the Covid-19 pandemic situation in Africa and Ghana
were not different from the global tourism perspective painted above, adding that before the global lockdown, 68.8 million people came to Africa as tourists in 2019.

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He said these tourists and their spending power contributed to 6.8 percent of Africa’s GDP and 25.48 million jobs to the continent, however, by the time the pandemic hit, almost six million jobs and $86 billion had been wiped out in Africa.

“In Ghana, International tourism arrivals declined by 68.5 percent, from 1.130,307 in 2019 to 355,108 in 2020. However, through the positive policy interventions by the Government of Ghana such as Covid 19 Response Grant (Covid-19 Relief Grant, SME Support Grant, Site Upgrade Grant) backed by an aggressive social media campaign by GTA and the collective commitment of stakeholders in the tourism industry, Ghana is returning to pre-pandemic arrival levels.

“International tourism arrivals and receipts have seen a significant rise from 623,523 in 2021 to 914,892 in 2022, representing 46.7 percent year-on-year growth.

“In the UNWTO’s report on the topic ‘Tourism Set to Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels in Some Regions in 2023,’ it was stated, among others, that Europe reached nearly 80 percent of pre-pandemic arrivals while Africa and America reached 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Ghana’s arrival recovery stood at 81 percent from pre-pandemic levels, which is higher than the average African recovery level,” Sampson explained.

In his welcome speech, Ikechi Uko, the organizer of Accra Weizo, noted that West Africa is the most populous region in Africa with over 400 million people and huge tourism potentials which are yet to be tapped.

According to Uko, despite the enormous challenges, Africa can achieve more with collaborative synergies and cooperation instead of competition. “What we can achieve together is amazing but we have not shared our strength together,” he said.

He said that there are more than 400 million people in West Africa, which makes it the most populous region in Africa, but observed that its tourism embrace was low.

Uko challenged West African leaders to imbibe cooperation and embrace digitalisation in moving the sector forward.

He also bemoaned the multiple checks within the West African routes as one of the major factors militating growth within the region.

The well-attended international event, which was held under the theme: ‘Tourism Development Through Digitalization: Is The Sub-Region Ready?’, took place at the Accra City Hotel in Accra Ghana. The event stimulated inspiring discussions on how to leverage travel technology to liberalise movement within the African borders, especially in West Africa.

In attendance were dignitaries from different countries, including Ghana’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture represented by Otto Langmagne, the Director of Human Resources, Turaki Nura Kaigiwa, Director General, National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism, (NIHOTOUR); represented by Famogbiyele Taiwo, Director, General Studies, and Ekow Sampson, the deputy, CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority.

Also in attendance were industry experts, Beauty Queens, tourism boards, tour operators, travel agencies, hospitality companies, destination management companies (DMCs), travel and tourism students, travel Influencers, exhibitors, and members of both local and international media.

Highlights of the conference included panel discussions, B2B networking sessions, exhibitions, as well as the annual Balafon Awards which recognizes individuals and organizations that have excelled in travel and tourism and have contributed to the growth of the industry in West Africa.