Capitalizing on tourism will boost economic development in East Africa, says ECA expert
At the 23rd Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts, the Economic Commission for Africa Economic Affairs Officer, Geoffrey Manyara said that capitalizing on tourism potential would significantly accelerate Economic Development in the region.
The travel and tourism industry is an important economic sector that puts the bread on the table for 7.2 million East Africans. More than 250 experts and senior officials, from 14 East African countries, were drawn in to the meeting held in Asmara, Eritrea, including Government officials, business leaders, and representatives from international organizations, media and academia.
The Culture and Tourism Minister of Ethiopia, Hirut Kassaw emphasized that reliable statistics are a pre-requisite for the impactful evidence-based policy required – and this is one of the challenges Eastern Africa faces on the tourism front. In line with global and regional agendas, she argued that the development of the tourism industry is one of the top priorities in enabling Eastern Africa to reach its development targets.
The Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Convention Bureau, Jacinta Nzioka reiterated that the tourism sector continues to include only a narrow range of products that are often nature-based and generic. "Such tourism 'products' do not encourage a vibrant tourism industry, because they do not give rise to multiple visits; nor do they give rise to a resilient sector, because they do not target African tourists," she said.
Whilst demonstrating that tourism is already an important economic sector across the region, Manyara explained the Eastern Africa region is still low-ranking in the Global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index and many countries in the region suffer from poor tourism-enabling infrastructure, because of poor public investment. Critically, the number of African visitors, from Eastern Africa or elsewhere on the continent, is also considerably lower than what it could be.
According to the updates released by the official website of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), it (ECA) argues that there is still a great deal of tourism potential that goes unharvested in East Africa. For example, the 63 million tourist arrivals to the African continent in 2017 represent just 4.7 percent of the estimated 1.3 billion global tourists that travelled that year.
To leverage the full potential of tourism, the African Union Commission recommends the implementation of a 'Continental Tourism Strategy'; what's more, a successful travel and tourism industry has been tipped off as an avenue for achieving the goals of the African Union Agenda 2063 and the East African Community's Vision 2050.