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WTO shares passion for Africa – the most promising ecotourism product in the world

Passion for Africa , tourism based on a code of ethics, a belief in the power of tourism as an instrument of prosperity…

Passion for Africa , tourism based on a code of ethics, a belief in the power of tourism as an instrument of prosperity, can be a major factor in responding to the challenges of poverty and inequity, but most of all – prospects of peace, may evolve a sense of pragmatic optimism about the future of African tourism.



These points encapsulated the mood of the Conference on Tourism, Peace and Sustainable Development, held in Luanda at the end of May in conjunction with the World Tourism Organization`s Commission for Africa. The Conference, chaired by Mr. Jorges Alicerces Valentin, the Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Angola and attended by some 40 countries including more than 20 ministers of tourism – shared a sanguine mood of realism about the current global situation as well as.



The issues discussed included macroeconomics,peace dividends, investment, partnerships, economic impact analysis, aviation liberalization and interface with NEPAD . In addition, related case studies were reviewed from across the continent.



There was also widespread support for the view that Africa has the opportunity to use its unique tourism assets – its cultures, traditions, natural beauty and wildlife – as a major factor in poverty reduction and in unlocking peace dividends where conflict is resolved. The meeting shared the view articulated and demonstrated by Mr. Dawid DeVilliers, WTO Deputy Secretary-General that passion for Africa and a belief in the power of tourism as a change agent can be a major factor in responding to the challenges of poverty and inequity. It also underscored the value of the WTO`s Global Code of Ethics as invaluable guidance for the kind of tourism that Africa must seek to pursue.



Tourism can be the driver for poverty reduction and the agent for human improvement in the condition of life across the continent. Africa is the most promising ecotourism product in the world, we must develop it with passion, profitably, through partnerships at all levels and above all with a strategic vision and the commitment from the governments of Africa, said the Tourism Minister of Mauritius, Mr. Nandcoomar Bodha.



Peace is fundamental to tourism development. With peace, tourism can be a central factor in economic growth, sustainable development and social progress. Without it the potential vanishes. Delegates stressed that partnership in tourism must be stronger than terrorism and that we should for no cost allow any country to be a victim of ruthless threats of irresponsible individuals as is the case in some African destinations, that recently experienced attacks on tourism or tourists.



The geopolitical shift towards development generally and Africa specifically was also noted with optimism. The UN Millennium Development Goals, seeking to halve extreme poverty by 2015, the Summits of Doha on Trade Inclusion, of Monterrey on Debt Relief and of Johannesburg on Sustainable Development all led in the right direction for positive change.



Regionally, the concept of an African Union and of New Partnership For Africa`s Development (NEPAD) provided new exciting visionary mechanisms for African integration and renaissance – the latter now actively developing an African Tourism framework and reaching out to other institutions for support and interface. Similarly, WTO`s strengthened focus on the Continent through the African Commission, through it`s Liberalization with a Human Face Strategy focusing on Poverty, Sustainability and Fair Trade, as well as its STEP initiative with UNCTAD, linking Sustainable Tourism and Poverty Elimination were all seen as extremely positive steps. The conference strongly supported an initiative for collaboration between WTO and NEPAD with constructive approaches to build synergies and avoid overlap so as to maximize the benefits for Africa and Africans.



Considering the continuing global uncertainty surrounding the immediate term economy, geopolitics, war, terrorism and SARS, it was felt that tourism has shown remarkable resilience. Medium to long – term projections remain cautiously positive. In this environment Africa has broadly maintained its position as a growth market – although with significant variance by region and by country, there can be no complacency.



Stimulating intra and inter-regional markets should be vigorously explored, as these might be less susceptible to global trends. Africa`s ecotourism product was seen as a major linking potential. Regional initiatives might also be effectively branded and promoted – even within a broader pan African approach, stressed the delegates.



There was a considerable interest in the issue of more airline services to African destinations and particularly the requirement to increase regional flows and to drive up service quality, while holding down cost. The importance of infrastructure was again stressed with the need to attain world-class safety and security levels for customer confidence as well as global quality levels for market attractiveness.



At the airline level, the value of progressive liberalization was recognized as a vehicle to boost tourism flows – and here the worldwide trends for gradual opening of markets and airline ownership in ICAO and the African Liberalization of Yamoussoukro 2 were noted with approval. So too was the WTO initiative to establish a worldwide concept of Essential Tourism Development Routes for poor countries, mirroring steps taken by industrialized states to protect and stimulate weaker markets in their own regional liberalization.

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