The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has urged African countries to position themselves appropriately for tourism development.
Mr Kojo Bentum-Williams, the Senior Expert on Communications for UNWTO in Africa, told the Newsmen on Tuesday in Lagos that African countries should be encouraged to make tourism a key sector in their economies.
According to him, the Secretary General of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, says that tourism will only be sustainable if developed and managed by African countries. He said this was because of the huge patronage from both visitors and local communities.
“We have been engaging with the tourism board and ministers to ensure that this becomes practical. We have also been engaging our member states to help them design better strategies to promote sustainable and responsible tourism,” he said.
Bentum-Williams added that the first meeting the organisation had with ministers of tourism and aviation in Cape Verde was to encourage team work.
“We brought these ministries together to breech the silos and ensure that they can work together because if they do not work together, we cannot get great results.
“Member states have peculiar problems and the end result is that we work together to ensure that we are able to mobilise them to solve all problems.
“UNWTO is the United Nations’ agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism,” he said.
Bentum-Williams added that the organisation had been engaged in using innovation to change how tourism was used.
“The organisation also aims to use innovation to make tourism a better sector by helping women build their skills and encouraging startups to boost tourism.
“We are also fishing out special and intelligent people doing a lot of things in tourism to see how we can further help them become better.
“We plan to introduce an online tourism course. The focus is to give opportunities to people to build their skills to work in the industry,” he said.
Bentum-Williams added that the key infrastructure for tourism development was connectivity.
He said that the agenda that would aid connectivity had to be pushed to all countries so that they could open up and ensure that Africa was on the path to greatness.
“Africa is on the move in terms of decision making and member states are beginning to understand how opening up can help promote trade.
“South Africa has done well by giving some countries visa waivers, especially Ghana that started to enjoy the opportunity recently.
“Every country should position itself strategically because tourism is very competitive and tourists choose destinations based on what they will get back.
“What are the things that will attract tourists to Nigeria, there needs to be a discussion about what Nigeria wants to push out in terms of tourism,” he added.
The organisation’s aim is to promote tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability.
It is also to offer leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.