By Mariatou Ngum
Information Officer, MOTC
The 63rd virtual meeting of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Regional Commission for Africa was held on Monday, 8th June 2020.
UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa is the major institutional platform where ministers in charge of tourism discuss the latest trends of the sector at the continental and global level and the implementation of their program of work.
The meeting focused on the impact of the COVID-19 in the tourism sector and the key recommendations for the recovery process.
Speaking at the virtual meeting, the Tourism and Culture minister, Hon. Hamat N.K Bah said: “Africa needs to develop its domestic and regional tourism; our integration is key. We must make sure that we work together in our regional bodies – the ECOWAS within the AU – to promote interstate tourism, develop the infrastructure, including in the rural areas”.
He went on: “For Gambia, we are lucky that we have one of our big brothers, Nigeria, which offers a huge market for us and other countries around. We believe that our next strategy is to develop very strong marketing strategy in Nigeria and other countries that can fit into our tourism sector and can help promote tourism and culture together. We are binding tourism and culture using it as a means to promote our tourism”.
Mr Bah underlined the significance of Africans discovering and realising the importance of their continent and adopt their culture, values and heritage by visiting and discovering their own countries and the region at large.
He observed that for many African countries, communication and connectivity seem to be a problem. Therefore, he suggested that they enhance air access, affordable air fares and develop railway network within the African continent. This, he indicated is the sure way to promote interstate tourism within the continent and the region. “We believe that if that is done, we could learn from the lessons of COVID-19. We will not rely on international tourist arrivals; instead we will rely on domestic and regional tourism,” he asserted.
The Minister stressed the need for them to put their houses in order as a body, through the AU, in order to have Africans spend their holidays within the African continent.
He informed the meeting that The Gambia is now devoting all its resources to developing its domestic and regional tourism. “We believe that with the support of the AU and looking at some of the laws that govern the movement of people within the region to facilitate it; to make it easier; particularly the issue of visas, we should be able to learn positive lessons from COVID-19,” he stated.