The 6th annual Africa Tourism Leadership Forum & Awards concluded in Gaborone, Botswana, on Friday (October 6) with a strong message of the need to stop discussing collaboration and strategy and “just do it!”.
One of the big steps in the right direction was the endorsement, at the start of the three-day ATLF 2023, of the Africa Tourism Private Sector Alliance (ATPSA) by the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) Secretariat.
This apex body for Africa’s travel, tourism, and hospitality private sector was initiated at last year’s ATLF where it was highlighted that the AfCFTA had a key role to drive intra-Africa travel and boost tourism growth as well as creating jobs on the continent.
According to CEO of Africa Tourism Partners – the organisers of ATLF – Kwakye Donkor, the objective is to use this body to leverage the opportunities under the AfCFTA.
He said the AfCFTA Protocol on Trading in Services highlighted travel and transport as one of five priority sectors.
AfCFTA is making headway with 54 (of 55 African countries) having signed the agreement, and 47 countries having ratified the agreement by August this year.
Botswana is the latest country to have ratified the agreement with its Minister of Tourism, Philda Nani Kereng, pointing out that AfCFTA was the right platform to “unearth and uncover” opportunities for the tourism sector on the continent by driving connectivity, collaboration and community upliftment.
Some of the most important issues to address collective barriers to tourism growth through the new apex body are ensuring sustainability, open skies in Africa, affordable airfares, doing away with visas for AfCFTA member states, cutting regulation red tape, harmonising regulations and upskilling the tourism workforce.
However, CEOfficer of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa and Interim Chair of the SADC Business Council Tourism Alliance, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, noted that one of the biggest challenges was that there was still a lack of political will to stop talking and start walking.
“The continent is still divided and every country plays by its own rules. To get this grand vision to work, we need to single-mindedly address all the barriers and start demonstrating the value of working together to our respective governments,” he said.
According to Donkor, over 600 delegates from over 42 countries attended this year’s ATLF. A total of 70% of attendees were from Africa.