Gastronomy, culture and unique African stories are a vital aspect of tourism and a strong motivator that should be used to attract international travelers to explore African countries.
This was the unifying message of a session at Africa’s Travel Indaba 2022 hosted in Durban last week. Several of the continent’s top chefs, and a representative from the UN World Trade Organisation (UNWTO), highlighted the niche tourism business opportunities presented by African gastronomic experiences which offer cultural tourism product offerings.
UNWTO Director in the Department for Africa, Elcia Grandcourt, said the continent’s tourism and travel sector had been hard hit, like the rest of the world, by a 64% drop in tourism arrivals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Added to this challenge was the fact that Africa was still striving to overcome negative stereotypes and other barriers that impact on tourism.
“Over the past few days we have heard lot of talk about shifting the narrative but also for Africa as a continent to own its narrative and about tourism for inclusive growth,” she said.
Grandcourt said it was imperative to shift the narrative to promote more positive, powerful and emotional stories as a unique selling point to help improve market confidence and trust for the tourism sector to recover.
“We need to feel safe. If we don’t feel safe ourselves and that trust isn’t being rebuilt then surely we can’t expect visitors to come to our shores. We must build trust for visitors to come to our continent,” she said.
Grandcourt said the UNWTO had been promoting African tourism through its #MyAfrica social media campaign in which it had invited people to share positive stories about the continent.
“Another key initiative we been driving is African gastronomy, which is a growing motivation to travel. It adds value to a destination and helps promote local products and know how. It will allow for the stories to be told and to showcase the people behind it. It makes us value our local products more,” she said.
“People are at the core of our businesses and while we recognise that tourism is a people’s industry, gastronomy is much more than food. Gastronomy is that beautiful connection between people and culture and food …of thousands of ethnicities, which reflects the richness of each country’s destination,” highlighted Grandcourt.
During the session chefs from across the continent shared their personal experiences of what had influenced their local cooking. Chef Coco Reinharz (South Africa) Chef Isaac Sackey (Ghana) and Chef Bamba Alex (Côte d'Ivoire) that it was important to present local cuisine to tourists who want to not only experience new cultures but also enjoy the culinary delights of the regions they visit.