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UNWTO Prescribes Tools to Boost Tourism

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently stated that countries  which  are  able  to  build  a tourism  destination  brand would  be  those  countries  that are  best  in  exploiting  the great  untapped potentials  in  the  tourism market.

The Executive Secretary of Member-Relations and Regional Director for the Americas of the UNWTO, Mr. Carlos Vogeler made this known at the 2015 West Africa Culture and Tourism Ariya Expo. He addressed participants at the seminar focusing on three key issues relating to destination branding in Africa that he said would boost tourism development in the region.

First, the UNWTO Executive expatiated on the issue of Tourism Development and Trends in the World and Africa – Why Tourism matters for Africa. In his words: “In  many  African  countries,  tourism  is  one  of  the  main  economic sectors  supporting  national  growth,  employment  and  environmental conservation,  ultimately  making  a  positive  difference  in  the  lives  of millions of people.”

Mr. Vogeler then talked on the second issue, which was the importance of destinations Branding and Tourism Development in the region. On this, he noted that in the case of tourism, as any business, brand image becomes very critical in differentiating a country or services from its competitors. While emphasizing that Africa is endowed with enormous tourism assets and natural resources, he stated; “And yet, Africa represents only 5% of the international tourist arrivals.”

UNWTO’s key areas in support of Tourism Development and Branding in Africa was the third issue explained by Mr. Vogeler. He revealed that the Organisation has a mandate to help its member countries develop and build their destination brands through training, technical advice, field missions and technical support services, as well as play the role of facilitator of public private partnership through investment forums like INVESTOUR.

The UNWTO spokesperson also stressed: “If you are known as a quality provider through a well-established destination brand you will be in a unique position to attract repeat tourism business.”

Many of the stakeholders of tourism from countries in West Africa also attended Ariya 2015 and made presentations which highlighted new tourism policies, cultural gems and rebranded historical sites that tourists who are seeking the next level of travel hospitality cannot ignore in the coming year.

Sierra Leone’s acting Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Mrs. Kadija Olamatu Sesay spoke about the finishing touches being put into place to promote tourism business as the country was a few days away of being declared Ebola free at the time.

The Director of Tourism of the country’s tourism ministry, Mr. Mohammed Jalloh, used the opportunity of the event to invite tourists to visit Sierra Leone and take a hike up the highest mountain in West Africa, wake to the calls of chimpanzees and monkeys in the rainforest as well as enjoy the fresh, sweet taste of mangoes plucked straight from the trees.

Sharing memories from her years of childhood in Sierra Leone, English actress, Ellen Thomas who has had many television and film roles, recounted her experience when she recently visited her homeland. She summed up the visit by describing it as enlightening and an eye-opener which spurred an excitement within her to spread the word about the tropical haven Sierra Leone is.

During his presentation, the Managing Director of Cape Verde Travels who was representing Cape Verde Tourism, Mr. Ron Hughes spoke about how tour guides are more important to tourists than the Presidents of the countries being visited. He stressed that these tour guides should reflect proper training and standard industry practice on the job. He shared the experience the archipelago islands have had in growing tourists’ patronage within a period of time.

He said: “Five years ago when we had our presentation, it was our first session at the Ariya Expo, there was only less than a hundred thousand people, maybe 80, 000 people from England going to Cape Verde. Now, sort of five years later and our colleague from the United Nations said how they had improved. Now we’ve got nearly 300, 000 people travelling from England alone to Cape Verde. Those are the figures.”

For Sao Tome and Principe, the Director General of Tourism, Mrs. Marian Daio did her presentation in the official language of the country, Portuguese. With the help of an interpreter, she explained that the 200, 000 people that make up the population of the two islands located on the Gulf of Guinea makes them unknown to the rest of the world. But she was quick to add that they are an emerging marketing that is a safe region and they have been generating curiosity in tourism, investment and other areas.

Her words: “Our main focus is sustainable, eco-friendly tourism and it’s development. We are promoting an experience on the islands where you can learn about our plantations of Cocoa and Coffee, colonial history, architectural tourism and we are open for investment tourism, with a niche in luxury.”

The Director of Marketing and Communication for the Senegalese Tourism Promotion Agency, Ms. Houma Dia noted that the privileged geographical location of Senegal makes it unique. “It is close to Europe and America and it is very accessible; Senegal is served by a lot of international airlines,” she said.

Speaking further, she mentioned another unique feature of Senegal as being the fact that it is very safe and stable. She said: “It is a political exception in the sub-region and that explains why you have a lot of international organisations which have made Dakar the base for their operations.”

In a presentation made by the Deputy Secretary General of the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF), Mr. Li Baochun, the economic advantage of outbound tourism from China having immense benefits for Africa in general and West Africa particularly, was the central message. "Chinese outbound tourists reached 1.138 billion in 2014 and I have full confidence that West Africa is the next holiday destination for the Chinese. In 2014, Chinese outbound travel to Africa was increased significantly by 80.9%. Africa is attractive to the west and certainly attractive to the Chinese. The Chinese could be the next tourism-able market for West Africa,” said Mr. Baochun.

Two other celebrities of African descent graced the 2015 edition of Ariya Expo, celebrating it for its significance. Trinidad and Tobago’s Rudolph Walter and Jamaica’s Angela Wynter are recognized celebrities who act in the BBC One soap opera, Eastenders. They were both happy to identify with the wealth of human resource and values in the West African region that the event succeeds in uncovering each year.
Beats from the homeland serenaded the air as an artful drummer and his graceful dancer took the audience on a journey to West Africa with cultural songs and folklores. The entertainment was made complete when during lunch-break participants at Ariya Expo were treated to traditional snacks and drink of plaintain chips and calabash-served palmwine. It was truly a taste of West Africa.

Convener and Chief Executive Officer of the West Africa Tourism Seminar, Ms. Ola Wright had in her opening remarks said that West Africa has over time carved out a cliché as the best beauty of Africa, especially in the areas of culture, tradition and complete social freedom. She stated clearly that: “West Africa Tourism is calling for stronger regional cooperation and increased partnerships as means to build a stronger brand value for West Africa.”

Ms. Wright further noted: “This forum is set to bring West African countries under one roof to share our beautiful story with the world.”

West Africa Tourism Ariya Expo is an annual event and the 2015 edition was held on November 3rd at the Excel Centre in London United Kingdom.

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