ATA members urged to step up lobbying efforts

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- David Saunders, chief executive officer of Venue International Professionals in Washington, said the U.S. Congress could have passed the recent Africa Growth and Opportunity Act on May 11 without even mentioning tourism as one of the areas of potential opportunity for the continent.

Saunders said he happened to talk to one of the African ambassadors about the legislation before it passed and learned to his surprise that tourism was not mentioned.

At the least, he figured his conversation was a factor in getting a message to Congress and getting the subject into the law.

Finding a place in that law was important, he said, because now "there is money available to use for developing tourism" to Africa.

Typically, however, Congress does not necessarily mandate economic funds for tourism projects.

Saunders told the anecdote to make a point during his presentation to delegates at the annual Africa Travel Association congress here last week.

He called on the ATA and its members to step up efforts to interact with and influence government, whether it be through lobbying and educating congressmen or becoming acquainted with the African diplomatic corps.

Saunders urged establishing links with U.S. government agencies that can have an impact on tourism infrastructure development, such as the Commerce and Transportation departments.

He also urged "partnering" with the Small Business Administration's International Trade Division.

He said he expects the SBA to be represented at the next annual ATA meeting, in South Africa.

He also said the ATA would post information on the group's Web site at www.africa-ata.org, with more details on the opportunities for working with the SBA and how to do so.

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