The Namibian government and the country’s tourism industry are counting huge gains as Africa Youth in Tourism Innovation Summit (AYTIS) 2023 opens in Swakopmund, a coastal city and tourism hub of the country.
This year’s summit, which is the fifth edition of the AYTIS, is riding on the success of the 4th edition, which held in Windhoek, also in Namibia.
In his speech at the opening ceremony, Pohamba Shifeta, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Namibia, noted that the government is throwing its weight behind the summit because tourism has been identified in the country’s Vision 2030 as a pillar of economic growth that contributes directly to poverty alleviation and economic development in rural communities.
According to the minister, the sustained government’s support for the tourism industry is further underpinned in the national development plan four (NDP4) and NDP5 of the Republic of Namibia, amid policies and strategic interventions, which cater to women and youth empowerment in the country.
“Moreover, it is established to nurture African youth,small enterprises, and introduce accelerator initiatives to pursue opportunities in the ever-growing travel & tourism ecosystem. Young people of Africa therefore, aim to become transformational industry change-makers and immediate future leaders of this important and profitable global travel and tourism sector,” he highlighted.
Toeing the same line with the minister, Zebulun Chicalu, director of tourism in the ministry, expressed satisfaction that the summit has created greater awareness of the importance of tourism economy and its multiplier effects on other industries and how the sector can positively and directly impact livelihoods.
Since country hosted the first summit last year, Zebulun noted that Namibian youths have been exposed to employment opportunities within the sector. Some industry stakeholders have also witnessed more networking among youth tourism businesses and better market access.
From a global standpoint, Elcia Grandcourt, director: Africa Department, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), noted that the UN body is supporting the summit in line with its agenda for Africa, which is captured under tourism for inclusive growth.
The strategic framework, according to her, aims to maximize the tourism sector’s contribution to Africa’s sustainable and inclusive development.
“This agenda, which has among other priorities, a key focus on youth and women empowerment, education, investment, and innovation, provides a roadmap to navigate the complexities of the post-pandemic landscape and help to steer our collective efforts towards a sustainable and inclusive recovery,” Grandcourt said.
Leveraging the summit as an exceptional and unique platform, UNWTO, according to her, “supports the work that African Tourism Partners is doing to drive innovation, facilitate youth leadership in tourism innovation, urging policy-makers to create conducive environment tourism start-ups and promote innovation in tourism with an emphasis on social sustainability, digital transformation, and youth employability.”
She encouraged all delegates at the summit to connect, engage, share knowledge, do business and learn from each other.
She also noted that it is while connecting and sharing that Africa would find the most disruptive projects that will drive growth and revolutionize youth entrepreneurship and employability while changing the way people travel.
For Sindi Khumalo, a travel buyer from Cape Town, South Africa, the youth-focused summit has offered his business insights into the African tourism supply chain, evolving digital solutions, and innovative ways of doing business, among other gains from the innovations of the participating youths.
Cornelius Ugwu, a Nigerian participant and one of the Top 8 contestants that made their final business pitches on the first day of the summit, urged fellow participants and those who joined virtually to optimize the lessons learned from this year’s summit and seize the huge opportunities in the tourism and digital space.
Earlier in the summit, Kwakye Donkor, CEO of Africa Tourism Partners, the organisers of the summit, expressed his excitement that the summit is encouraging healthy rivalry among African youths in entrepreneurship, particularly in the tourism ecosystem.
He looks forward to a more rewarding summit this year.
Meanwhile, three Nigerian young tourism entrepreneurs are among the Top 8 finalists that made their last pitches at the summit, with the hope of convincing the judges for grants to boost their business.