ARUSHA, Tanzania (eTN) – Tourism in the Southern African region is facing a number of setbacks, which needs quick interventions from regional governments.
Tourism leaders from member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who are meeting in Arusha this week, expressed their worries over the current situation facing the tourist industry in the region.
Transport and movement of both tourists and regional member state citizens were the most highlighted hitches facing the travel and tourism sub-sector in this part of Africa.
They said during the meeting of the Directors of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) that regional governments should take quick action to solve and ease transport problems facing most countries in the Southern African Development Community bloc.
RETOSA Chairman and Permanent Secretary for the Zimbabwe Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr. Sylvester Maunganidze, said the 15 member states of SADC lack reliable air connection between each country, making it difficult for tourists to move from one country to a neighbor member state smoothly.
He said the SADC region is the most attractive and tourist-friendly part of Africa by its diversified tourist attractions made up of wildlife, natural features, different cultures, and stable political atmosphere, but the lack of reliable air connection remains a big frustration.
Except South Africa, which has a good air transport network and a well-established national airline, the rest of the member states are still fighting to build their own national airline.
The SADC states are still depending on foreign airlines – Middle East- and European-registered air carriers to tourists inside and outside the region. This is a situation which makes travel to the region expensive due to frequent stop-overs and delays caused through connections outside Africa. The Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr. Ezekiel Maige, said tourism is the fastest-growing economic sector in the Southern African region with great optimism.
He, however, told the members of the RETOSA Board of Directors that SADC ministers for tourism are expected to meet in Zambia mid-this year to discuss and look for permanent solutions on air transport problems facing the travel and tourist industry in the region.
RETOSA directors, however, called for regional governments to look at options that would attract local people to visit tourist sites available in their own countries.
By making it easier for the locals to visit their own countries, it will make tourism grow faster and create more business and employment opportunities in respective member states, Dr. Maunganidze said.
RETOSA is an inter-governmental organization established to oversee and coordinate tourism development among the fifteen member states of SADC, comprising the 15 Southern African member countries of Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The organization’s primary objectives include, first, to aggressively promote the SADC region as a single but multi-faceted tourist destination, capitalizing on its common strengths and highlighting individual member states’ unique tourist attractions in the source markets.
It also acts as a communication platform for member states and the target audience, in order to enhance the region’s tourism and tourist confluence, including but not the least of, the building and deepening of awareness for the region and member states’ tourism attractions, changing the negative perceptions and creating positive ones, and promoting the region as a single destination.
Based in Midrand, Gauteng, South Africa, the organization markets and promotes tourism in Southern Africa in close cooperation with the region’s national organizations.