Africa Tourism Board Corona Resilient Zones (CRZ )initiative
Former UNWTO Secretary - General effort to make Africa tourism resilient against COVID-19
Emphasizing the development of domestic, regional, and international tourism for Africa, the African Tourism Board Patron Dr. Taleb Rifai had suggested the creation of Corona Resilient Zones (CRZ) at certain destinations in the continents and its neighborhood.
Dr. Rifai, former Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said this week that the psychological barrier is now, one of the most important factors in preventing people from traveling outside their homes.
“Today, the psychological barrier is one of the most important factors in preventing people from leaving home, let alone, travel to another country, especially for leisure or when there is no real urgent need to travel”, Dr. Rifai said.
“Our emphasis on domestic and regional tourism must not distract us from the importance of keeping the possibilities for international tourism open”, he said.
It has, however, become clear that people are not going to just leave home today and travel, even if it becomes possible to do so after the Corona crises are technically over unless they feel safe and secure, he noted.
The feeling of being safe and secure, which is essential for travel, must be matched, however, by real safety and security measures implemented on the ground, at any particular destination”, added Dr. Rifai.
“I will attempt here to suggest the possibility of designating the so-called “Corona Resilient Zones (CRZ), at certain destinations”, Dr. Rifai wrote down in a message.
“When we say ‘Corona Safe Zone’, we must recognize that no one can in reality guarantee a 100 percent Corona free Zone”, he emphasized.
“But, one can, however, surely implement all necessary procedures to assure everyone, that we are doing our best, doing all that can be done to ensure a safe and secure environment”, he added saying.
Dr. Rifai further said: “That is why the act of doing the right thing in saving the lives of people, is as important as the feeling and the perception of safety and security that is created in the minds and hearts of people and visitors”.
The Corona Free Zone is important, therefore, “Not only because we are doing the right thing but, also because people trust that we are doing the right thing. Credible positive promotion is, therefore, a very important factor”, he said.
The choice and designation of a “Zone” to become a CRZ must be subject to the following criteria, which among them, should be geographically defined, with specific entry and exit control points, and should preferably include a specific Airport and or a Port dedicated specifically to service the zone.
Other criteria for designated CRZ should include well-defined and well managed key tourist services which are accommodation, transportation, retail facilities, and services to a particular natural or cultural tourism attraction, and finally it should preferably be independently administered and forming a recognized economic entity.
The other criterion is on how we decide on what are the necessary procedures, he suggested.
The idea to establish CRZ is based on the following up and taking care of each and every visitor’s detailed movement, from the moment of arrive at the time of leaving back home by land, air, or sea, Dr. Rifai had highlighted the CRZ establishment criteria.
“These are but some examples of the large number of protocols that need to be designed”, he said.
This should typically be managed and overlooked by Tour Operators. An example can be a family member arriving to a Corona Resilient Zone, and then they have to be tested before boarding on a preferably, the national carriers of the designated zone, from their destination of origin.
Other CRZ handling of tourists and visitors arriving to a Zone are the airport at the destination of origin which will have to be very well managed; social distances and wearing masks and gloves should be observed throughout the airport as well as at check-in counters of the National airline.
All employees at the airport must be dressed appropriately that includes, check-in, security, and immigration officers.
Lounges at the airport of origin must observe social distancing and all other medical security measures, embarking on the aircraft must follow social distancing and all other safety measures, and the aircraft itself must be carefully sensitized at least a day before the flight and seating must follow certain rules.
More safety steps to be observed to arriving visitors to a CRZ are the hostesses and all workers on board the aircraft who must be wearing the right protections, the flights should preferably be non-stop to avoid the complications of a stopover and disembarking at the free safety zone arrival airport which must follow the medical procedures.
Safety and security measures for disembarked visitors at the arrival airport will have to be observed, including at immigration, testing and luggage collection and taxis waiting out for passengers, all should be completely sensitized. Drivers must be wearing gloves and masks in accordance with medical rules.
Finally, arrivals at hotels, off-loading luggage, checking in, using stairs or elevators, and entering their rooms must all follow strict procedures, while using hotel facilities, lobbies, dining halls, swimming pools, and other service facilities during the family stay, must follow strict rules.
“Visiting Petra or Wadi Rum from Aqaba city must be very meticulously designed and going back home should follow the same procedures”, Rifai cited such an example.
A specific protocol will have to be drafted, by medical and specialized operational and management experts for each and every step along the way, and during the stay, as well as any other protocols needed.
Tour operators, airlines, airport management, local transport vehicles and buses, hotels, retail shops, and archeological and natural site managers, will all have to commit to the proper implementation of all the protocols.
They should all embark immediately on retraining their staff to properly implement the protocols, whether it’s cleaning and sanitization, wearing all the right protections, or, testing when and where needed.
All of which can be administered or supervised by tour operators. This would bring back to work all tourism operators.
The ability and the adherence to these protocols should be certified by a very credible specialized body. This is important not only because it is the right thing to do but, also because it is the only way of communicating trust and confidence to the consumer.
It is the only way of alleviating fears and worries from travelers and restores the necessary trust needed for them to leave their homes and travel.
Airports, airlines, taxis, buses, hotels, and selected sites will all have to be certified and display this certification. The sum of all of the above would lead to the certification of the entire zone, for instance, Aqaba as certified “Corona Resilient Zone”.
Ensuring the right implementation of these procedures and marketing of CRZ, “We indeed need to use the concept of “Certified Corona Resilient Zones” for promotion and marketing”, with examples of such a campaign; “Greece from home can become now”.
More such a campaign is like “It’s time to leave home; Greece is ready and waiting for you”.
“Come to the Greek island of Mykonos, it’s a certified Corona Free Zone”, or “Time to leave home, come visit, Jordanian is ready and waiting for you”, “Come to Aqaba, Jordan it is a certified Corona Resilient zone”, or “Visit the Dead Sea, Jordan, it’s a Corona Resilient Zone, Dr. Rifai gave such above, good examples.
He said that it is important to note that while this may look like an expensive investment, for something that is seen by some as being temporary after which things will go back the way they were.
“Even if some protocols and restrictions would ease up in the future, the fact remains that things will never go back the way they were, and even if so, the hesitant, state of mind will remain with us for years to come. The world would never go back the way it was”, he added.
Governments must lead, stimulate and generally overlook this concept but it is in partnership with the private sector that the design of the protocols, the testing, and implementation of the protocols and the certification of the implementation of such protocols are, to be realized and promoted, said the ATB Patron and former Secretary-General of the UNWTO.
More information on the African Tourism Board go to www.africantourismboard.com