…as AfCTA embraces tourism through the creative industry
Since the inaugural event in 2018 at Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel in Accra, Ghana, the Africa Tourism Leadership Forum (ATLF), has been pushing frontiers for tourism development across the continent.
The Forum has been rotating in the last six editions from Ghana, South Africa, Rwanda and now Botswana, advocating borderless Africa, seamless intra-African travels and exchanges, and collaborative initiatives in the tourism space, among others, all geared towards growing the continent’s tourism industry at par with its global peers.
The above objectives were once again furthered at the ATLF 2023 in Gaborone, Botswana. It was the second time the southern African country is hosting the forum, out of the three-year hosting right granted by African Tourism Partners (ATP), the organisers.
This year, which is the 6th edition of the ATLF, witnessed more participation, richer programme content, more industry-focused issues, solutions, and more collaborations, especially with the AfCTA, UNISA, and the Botswana government.
Moreover, over 600 delegates in attendance, from over 40 African countries, made this year’s edition thick.
The forum kicked off with a vibrant day of trading and training at the Gaborone International Convention Centre. Themed “Transformational Entrepreneurship and Intra-Africa Business to Business Networking Sessions,” a prelude to the main event, which featured insightful presentations by industry experts.
Some of the experts included Hamza Farooqui, CEO and founder, Millat Investments, who gave insights into tourism entrepreneurship; Wambugu Wa Gichohi, a franchise consultant, who unbundled the intricacies of franchising in the tourism sector.
Also, Women in Tourism Entrepreneurship enlivened the session with their presentation by the University of South Africa (UNISA) on sustainable tourism businesses from the agritourism initiative.
As promised by ATP, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Forum on Tourism, Creatives and Cultural Industries was inaugurated at the forum.
With the launch of the AfCFTA partnership with ATLF, the opening day was dedicated to AfCFTA’s impact on promoting tourism through culture and the creative industries.
It witnessed five sessions that explored different aspects of the AfCFTA Secretariat’s approach to maximizing opportunities in tourism, culture and creative industries, aligning with Africa’s development agenda.
The day witnessed insightful dialogues and thought-provoking discussions on the future of African tourism led by Emily Mburu-Ndoria, Director of the Directorate of Trade in Services, Investment, Intellectual Property Rights and Digital Trade (DTIID) at the AfCFTA Secretariat.
There were calls to market brand Africa by all Africans, the need for collaborations scaling up culture events to tourism attractions and for supporting policies from individual African countries.
For better promotion of the brand Africa, Emily Mburu-Ndoria insisted that the continent needs to simplify trade regimes for better advocacy, promotion and investment in tourism.
Patricia de Lille, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, emphasized the need to genuinely market “Brand Africa” and accelerate the revitalisation of the tourism industry.
Speaking from a government perspective, she noted that governments in Africa need to incentivize the private sector and create a platform for interaction between government and businesses.
In their conclusion, the panellists recommended Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) as vital for the growth and development of Africa’s tourism industry.
They also called on AfCFTA to come out with action plans to expedite the implementation of the plans, while also putting youth and women at the heart of progressive tourism initiatives and policies.
The packaging of individual cultural experiences to enhance tourism was also a key topic of discussion.
Offering solutions to the poor air connectivity within the continent, the panellists called for collaboration and a shift in operation models to reduce the cost of regional flights.
On its part, AfCFTA at the forum, considered regional flights as domestic to eliminate unnecessary taxes.
Read also: African tourism on spotlight at ATLF 2022
Susan Akporiaye, president, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), supported AfCFTA’s declaration of flights within Africa as domestic but called on the African Union agency to go beyond talks to engage governments and airlines on actions that will ensure cheaper fares.
On visa challenge, she called on other African countries to learn from Rwanda, which opened its borders to all Africans with no visa requirement for visit.
The panel on ‘Optimizing Returns on Tourism and Hospitality Investment’ gave investors and would-be investors nuggets on running a successful business in the tourism industry, as well as ways of accessing private and development finance for their projects.
Apart from the PPP model, they recommend crowd-funding and equity models.
Other sessions included: Bidding and Hosting Association Meetings, Conferences, and Exhibitions; Sustainability in Tourism and Hospitality and Next Frontier: Digitalization, where the panelists stressed the need for African data to make informed business decisions.
Earlier at the official opening ceremony, Slumber Tsogwani,
Botswana’s vice president urged African tourism businesses at the forum to network more and grow the business relationships beyond the forum with collaborations that will create more jobs, and wealth, improve skills and grow the industry at large.
He highlighted some of his country’s milestones in encouraging foreign direct investments, especially from within the continent, while assuring investors more open doors in Botswana.
Shortly after the official opening, the vice president, alongside his entourage, visited the exhibition stands at the forum, meeting and interacting with the exhibitors from across Africa.
On her part, Philda Nani Kereng, Botswana’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, highlighted the need to synchronize tourism-related sectors to fully open up opportunities for industry stakeholders and young people, especially in the SME space.
In his message at the forum, Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), who joined virtually, applauded the ATP for creating a platform that is transforming the African tourism landscape.
He took interest in the fact that for every edition, ATLF keeps growing in all ramifications with existing businesses strengthened and young entrepreneurs being discovered and groomed along the line.
However, Kwakye Donkor, CEO, Africa Tourism Partners, organisers of the forum, commended every government, businesses and individuals that have supported the forum in the last five years and also for making the 6th edition a success.
According to Donkor, the 2023 and the 6th edition of the ATLF is an evolution of the 6-year-old intra-travel and tourism thought-leadership dialogue series.
He was excited that in 2023, the forum lived up to its objectives of shaping the future and optimally positioning travel, tourism and hospitality among Africans while shifting demand dynamics.
He was also excited that the AfCFTA Forum on Tourism, Creative Arts and Culture, was a boom for the industry considering the fruitful dialogues, insights and call to action at the forum.
For him, this year’s ATLF was an all-around success. Apart from offering unique insights into opportunities for intra-Africa travel by prioritizing sales and marketing opportunities for private sector actors and related partners, ATLF 2023 was a vital benchmarking tool for policy-makers, tourism organisations, companies and cross-cutting sectors to advance value chain development as a way of building back better and differently.
The forum witnessed many sessions handled by industry experts amid fruitful insights for the participants. There was also entertainment by the KTM Choir, cultural groups and music artists from Botswana. But the delegates had more excitement at the cultural night, which was held at Three Dikgosi Monument, Gaborone CBD, and a city tour of Gaborone.
But the highlight of this year’s forum was the gala dinner, where awards were given out to deserving industry stakeholders and to the winners of the African Youth in Tourism Innovation Challenge 2023.
The night witnessed Gloria Kisilu of The Shaba Kenya being declared winner of the African Youth in Tourism Innovation Challenge.
Nigeria’s Cornalius Ugwu won the first runner-up position, and his South African counterpart emerged as the second runner-up.
In the ATLF 2023 awards, the Diaspora Affairs Office of the President of Ghana won the Leading in Progress Policies Award; the Outstanding Entrepreneurship Award went to Lizanne Du Plessis of Eco Africa Digital, South Africa, Outstanding Africa Tourism Media & Marketing Award went to CNBC Africa, South Africa, while Women in Leadership Award went to Lizanne Du Pleasis, South Africa.
Championing Sustainability Award went to African Wildlife Foundation Kenya, City of Cape Town, South Africa, emerged the Most Innovative Business Tourism Destination Award, Outstanding Accommodation Facility/Group Award went to Four Seasons Resort Seychelles,
The Outstanding Tourism Transportation Award went to Ethiopian Airlines, while the Destination Africa Lifetime Award went to Philda Nani Kereng, Minister of Environment and Tourism Botswana.
The Special Recognition Africa Tourism Leadership Award went to Ernie Heath, emeritus professor, South Africa, while the Botswana Minister’s Recognition Award went to Kinson Kgaga of Botswana Guides Association and Mmankudu Glickman of Bahurutshe Cultural Village.
In the expression of her excitement and that of her country over the success of the forum, the Botswana Minister of Environment and Tourism noted that Botswana is happy to welcome global tourists to her shores and that the ATLF has been showcasing the country to many in the world in last two years the forum has held and also assured the delegates of a much bigger forum next year.