Some 300 East African experts and policymakers on Thursday emphasized further investments in tourism as a priority sector to drive the momentum in East Africa’s economic transformation aspirations.
This came during the meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts, as experts and senior officials drawn from 14 East African countries gather in the Eritrean capital, Asmara as part of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)’s flagship regional meeting from November 5 to 7, which is being held in the Red Sea nation for the first time.
“The travel and tourism industry is an important economic sector that puts the bread on the table for 7.2 million East Africans,” Geoffrey Manyara, Economic Affairs Officer at the ECA, told senior government officials, experts, business leaders as well as representatives of international organizations attending the meeting.
The ECA official further emphasized the need “to capitalize on potentials in the tourism sector will significantly accelerate economic development in the region,” as he noted that the 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,” Manyara added.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Hirut Kassaw, also highlighted that reliable statistics are prerequisite for the impactful evidence-based policy required.”
Kassaw also said that “lack of impactful evidence-based policy is one of the challenges Eastern Africa faces on the tourism front,” adding that “the development of the tourism industry is one of the top priorities in enabling Eastern Africa to reach its development targets in line with global and regional agendas.”
Jacinta Nzioka, CEO of Kenya Convention Bureau, also 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.
The ECA further argued that there is still a great deal of tourism potential that goes unharnessed in East Africa, in which the 63 million tourist arrivals to the African continent in 2017 represent just 4.7 percent of the estimated 1.3 billion global tourists who have travelled during the stated period. Enditem