African Tourism faces obstacles ahead of ITB exhibition

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Looking to showcase the rich attractions the continent has been endowed with at the International Tourism Fair (ITB) in Berlin this week, African countries are facing obstacles and hurdles that impede tourism growth on the continent.

African countries are set to participate at ITB 2018 in Berlin that will open on Wednesday of this week. Rich in natural resources, mostly wildlife, geographical features and nature, most countries in this continent are lacking a good vision in tourism.

Political problems, hostile taxes, poor infrastructure, lack of skills and viable airlines for quick connections are few impediments the continent is facing in its plans to boost tourism.

Tourism operators inside Africa and those doing tourist business on the continent from Europe and America are looking for removal of obstacles and hurdles facing the tourism sector which have been seen to impede tourism development.

Wrapping up their discussions after a gathering and networking during the just-ended Meetings Africa 2018 held in Johannesburg, South Africa, few days ago, leading tourism players from the continent blasted the African governments and policymakers for wrong concepts on tourism.

Zimbabwean Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Pricah Mupfumira, said Africa needs to remove obstacles to the sector. She said Zimbabwe is currently trying to do that by improving roads as to boost tourist arrivals and establishing special economic zones to improve the country’s tourism sector.

She said Zimbabwe is in the process of establishing a one-stop shop where potential investors can apply for company licenses and get the entire necessary paperwork speedily completed in one place.

Frank Murangwa, Director of Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Events (MICE), Destination Marketing of the Rwanda Convention Centre, called on Africa to collaborate when hosting major events. He said many African countries should learn from Rwanda’s best practices.

“Tourism needs to be understood by the leaders like the situation in Rwanda. Tourism needs support of the government to create an enabling environment for tourism to succeed. These include access to countries, remove visa hassles, and ensure there is security and peace,” he said.

He said African countries which cannot afford to have airlines of their own should open their skies for those with money to operate as to promote tourism sector.

Political interference in tourism, imposition of Value Added Tax (VAT), poor planning of the industry, and poaching of wildlife are some of the known obstacles hampering the smooth growth of tourism in Africa.

Tanzania is among the African countries participating in ITB this year, looking to showcase its rich tourist attractions, but facing challenges emanating from politics and poor planning. For example, the planned hydropower project at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve, the biggest wildlife conserved area in Africa, would affect tourism development in the reserve. Politics in tourism has also attracted frustrations among key players in Tanzania, raising queries over the future growth of the sector.

Kenya, the other leading tourist destination in Africa, has recorded a smooth growth after its general election late last year. With no politics in tourism, Kenya is looking forward to recording a positive trend in tourism this year.