By Rotimi Ijikanmi, Arusha.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says for Africa to take advantage of tourism and its fastest-growing market, Africa must address the challenge of poor air connectivity.
The minister made the declaration on Wednesday in Arusha, Tanzania at the 65th meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Regional Commission for Africa.
The meeting, which is being attended by no fewer than 40 African Ministers of Tourism, has “Rebuilding Africa’s Tourism Resilience for Inclusive Socio-Economic Development’’ as its theme.
Mohammed said that poor air connectivity meant customers or passengers finding it more practical to travel through Europe or the Middle East to reach some parts of Africa.
“Poor connectivity negatively impacts productivity and ultimately has a cost implication. New routes and more frequencies will shorten flying time between many cities in Africa.
“For example, as of 2019, there was no regular direct service between Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The most convenient routing available then was via West Africa or Morocco. This could take between nine and 15 hours, while a direct service would take about two hours only!
“Travelling from Nigeria, for example, to other African countries could be complicated, expensive and challenging, as there are, in most cases, no direct flights to many African countries,’’ he said.
The minister noted that tourism growth would continue to be stunted if the challenge of poor connectivity was not urgently addressed.
According to him, Africa is one of the regions of the world with a steady tourism growth and the continent has always regarded tourism as an important sector for its economic development.
He, however, expressed regret that Africa’s share of global international arrivals remained a paltry five per cent.
“No doubt, air transportation is pivotal for any international tourism development, more so in Africa, owing to the need for tourists to move to the product destination.
“Air travels continue to be the dominant mode of travel for international tourists, accounting for over 50 per cent of all international arrivals.
“It is obvious, therefore, that growing air transportation into and within the African region, including effective connectivity, is key to unlocking Africa’s tourism potential,’’ he said.
In addressing the challenge, Mohammed called on all African Ministers of Tourism to cooperate and collaborate with their colleagues, African Ministers of Aviation.
The UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, agreed with the minister that poor connectivity had been a difficult and a long-standing challenge on the continent
He said that some airlines, including RwandAir and Ethiopian Airlines, had taken up the challenge but a lot needed to be done.
He assured that the UNWTO would champion a roundtable between the African Ministers of Tourism and Ministers of Aviation to find sustainable solutions to the challenge.