By Rotimi Ijikanmi, Arusha.
Nigeria has called on African leaders to initiate measures to boost intra-African tourism, in order to reverse the current high tendency of tourists from the continent travelling to Asia, Europe and America.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call on Wednesday in Arusha, Tanzania, at the opening of the 65th meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Regional Commission for Africa.
The meeting, which is 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 noted that intra-African tourism would popularise and enhance the attractiveness of Africa’s enormous but under-utilized tourism resources.
He identified the resources as beautiful white beaches, diverse flora and fauna, world-class national parks, historical sites and monuments, music, films, stage plays, gastronomy and fashion, among others.
“Tourism can be a gold mine in Africa if we all fully explore its potentials, particularly in areas of business tourism, destination tourism, medical tourism, religious tourism, entertainment tourism, gastronomy tourism, among others.
“I believe that we, as member states working together, can help in three key ways, namely: green and innovative investments, investing to ensure that no region is left behind,’’ he said.
The minister also underscored the need for African countries to, collectively and individually, address the challenges relating to poor connectivity, unfavourable visa regimes, insecurity and high cost of air transport.
He added that challenges of low quality of tourism support services, including hotels, buses and professional skills should be addressed.
Mohammed congratulated the UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, for the great milestone achieved by the organisation.
He also welcomed the report of the secretary-general focusing on sustainability of the programmes and activities of the organisation.
The minister appreciated UNWTO for recently awarding 100 Tourism Online Academy Scholarships to Nigerians willing to undertake basic training in sightseeing.
Mohammed said that Nigeria’s membership of UNWTO spanned five decades adding that since joining the organisation, the country had been consistent in its commitment to its activities.
Also speaking, Pololikashvili said that Africa must work together and encourage free trade and cooperation.
He assured that the UNWTO would work with the continent for the revitalisation of the tourism sector.