World tourism and travel leaders are meeting in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali to discuss, deliberate, and look for strategies to market the African continent, a new upcoming global tourist destination.
Under the umbrella of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) 41st Congress, the leaders are expected to come out with new ideas, strategies, and friendly interventions aimed to attract more tourists to visit Africa, mostly from the United States and other partner safari market sources in Europe.
Once regarded by most Americans as the “Continent doomed with poverty, diseases, and wars,” Africa is on the run to be the most attractive tourist and investment destination for Americans.
Visit to Africa by three consecutive US presidents over the past few years was a symbolic picture to show that Africa is the upcoming continent where Americans could visit and invest.
Even with stiff competition with other continents in marketing and publicizing itself before the rich American tourist markets, Africa is currently the number one tourist destination for wildlife and nature photographic safaris to the US people, thanks to the Africa Travel Association (ATA) for spearheading educative campaigns on Africa before the American people.
East Africa has been a target region where ATA had organized conferences and events which attracted hundreds of Americans and other nationalities to discuss African tourism.
With strong cooperation with the government of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and now Rwanda, ATA had selected Rwanda to host the strategic and first ever international tourism conference under the coordination of Corporate Council on Africa and ATA (CCA/ATA) in Arusha, from August 28 to 31 this week and which put this country for the first time on the competitive world tourism map.
Kenya was the first East African nation to host the Fist ATA World Congresses in 1976 shortly after the association’s launching in United States the previous year. Kenya became a host of other two ATA World Congress events in 1995, then 2005 and 2015, while Tanzania was a host of the ATA World Congress in 1998 and 2008, and Uganda was a host of 2014 ATA World Congress.
Rwanda has been honored as the fourth East African regional member state to host the ongoing 41st ATA World Congress and the coordination of CCA.
The ATA World Congress conferences have been attracting between 300 and 500 participants from various tourist-oriented countries. The United States of America (USA) has been the leading single country to bring almost 200 participants in the most recent past events.
Former Tanzanian minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mrs. Zakia Meghji, was elected the first ATA president, and assigned duties to coordinate tourism events, discussions, and advisory duties on behalf of other African countries as well as other travel partners in United States.
The key idea of ATA gatherings is to bring together key players in tourism and the African government policymakers to share ideas such as research, marketing, and better management of untapped African tourism for the rich American market, said former ATA Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Edward Bergman.
The ATA annual congresses are always addressed by well-known and experienced American tourist executives, African heads of state, African tourism ministers, and other top-ranking and decision-making government officials.
African companies specialized in travel trade, policy-making, and tourism marketing strategies are the key participants and key speakers during the ATA 41st Congress which opened this Monday in Kigali.
Other high-ranking tourism and travel trade executives from Asia, Europe, and North America are set to share and exchange their positive views on how to market the African continent.
Previous congresses have been held in various parts of Africa, with the exception of the eleventh congress, which marked the first time ATA’s annual congress was held outside Africa and was instead held in Atlanta, Georgia (USA).
Other than annual congresses, ATA held a number of tourism symposia in campaigning for African tourism marketing across the continent and the world.
ATA ecotourism symposia have been held since 1992 in Senegal, South Africa (1994), Morocco (1996), Nigeria (2000), Cameroon (2001), Morocco (2002), Zanzibar (2003), Uganda (2004), Angola (2005), and in 2006 was held in Calabar, Nigeria.
ATA has also organized annual African presidential conferences in New York, which brought together African heads of state to discuss the continent’s common interests in tourism.
The ATA Presidential Forum on Tourism is the organization’s (ATA) highest profile event in the USA taking place in New York every September in parallel to the United Nations General Assembly meetings.
Hosted by New York University’s Africa House, this one-day event offers Africa’s leaders an important opportunity to speak about how tourism contributes to a country’s economy and growth, said Bergman.
This year’s ATA 41st annual Congress will be the first with the new face of CCA/ATA.
Apart from Rwanda, best known by its mountain gorilla communities, other competitive African destinations rich with wildlife resources, cultural heritage, and geographical features are Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and South Africa.
South Africa is leading among other African countries with the highest number of tourists, with a recorded number of 9.2 million tourists visited its tourist attractions last year (2012).