Nearly 30 African Tourism ministers convened at INVESTOUR to debate and exchange experiences on the development of the sector in the continent. This unique Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa is jointly organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Casa Africa and FITUR.

Two round tables and a business-to-business component integrates the 9th edition of INVESTOUR that took place in the framework of FITUR, the Tourism Fair in Madrid. The first session, moderated by Thebe Ikalafeng, Chairman at Brand Africa, addressed branding strategies to position the African continent in the travel market.

“International tourist arrivals in Africa grew by around 8% for the second consecutive year with 62 million arrivals registered for 2017. These strong results that show the potential of tourism in Africa but also the prioritization of the sector in the development agenda in the continent,” said UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili.

“INVESTOUR has become a consolidated platform for sharing ideas and projects around the tourism sector in Africa. We started as a small summit and nine years later, nearly 30 African tourism ministers convene here to position the African continent, a topic that will occupy the debates in this year’s edition,” explained Luis Padrón, Director General of Casa Africa.

The second panel evaluated the added value of African biodiversity as a strong component of the tourism sector in the continent. Wildlife, reserves and geographic treasures make Africa unique with regard to its tourism offer. According to UNWTO research, wildlife watching travel represents 80% of the total annual tourist arrivals to Africa. However, it is mandatory to continue working on conservation and protection measures and to engage stakeholders of different nature such as governments, local communities, private sector recipients and the media.

Within that round table, the UNWTO/Chimelong Programme on Wildlife Conservation and Tourism was presented. The initiative, jointly implemented by UNWTO and the Chimelong Group, based in Guandong (China), aims at contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda through sustainable tourism and particularly wildlife conservation. The initiative comprises capacity building, advocacy and knowledge sharing methodologies and addresses multiple stakeholders such as governments, civil society and the media.

In the afternoon, tourism stakeholders gathered to discuss business opportunities in the continent. 15 inspiring projects were shared with the aim to build partnerships around tourism development in African nations.

Speaking to the press at that Investour 2018, Elsia Grandcourt, Head of the Africa Commission at the UNWTO said:- “One of the greatest challenges we face, together, is how the world views Africa. We are all aware of the negative stereotypes and perceptions that our continent sadly is much too often referred to”.

Elsia Grandcourt went on to say that there are many forces of influence that work against Africa and together we often blame the media for reinforcing a negative narrative.The fact remains, however, that we must work towards redefining and shifting the narrative.  We must tell our story, as individual African nations, and as one Africa. This is one of the priorities for the Commission for Africa”. Elsia Grandcourt, the Head of the Africa Commission at the UNWTO said.