Leader of 14-nation Africa tourism group visits New York, Atlanta

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NEW YORK -- A tourism executive representing southern African nations visited New York and Atlanta in a bid to spread the word about the attractions of the region's nations.

Shepherd Nyaruwata is the executive director of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (Retosa).

Retosa was formed in the mid-1990s. Its members are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

During his New York visit, Nyaruwata said he was confident the region can capture the interest of U.S. travelers.

"Southern Africa is diverse in cultures and activities," he said. "We are going to use tourism as a tool to eliminate poverty in our member countries."

Toward that end, Retosa is emphasizing two key principles: Keep local communities involved in tourism projects and make sure that profits are shared with the community.

In addition, he said, steps are being taken to conserve the region's wildlife, including an effort to establish "transfrontier conservation" areas.

"We are developing what we call Peace Parks. These megaparks extend across borders and enable visitors to experience a sense of African space and its incredible diversity in some of the best wildlife sanctuaries," Nyaruwata said.

To date, seven areas for Peace Parks have been identified, and each, he said, will act as a single ecological unit.

"Physical barriers at the borders of the parks, marking the boundaries of the countries, will not exist, allowing the natural movement of animals," Nyaruwata added.

Already established is the Kgalagadi Park, between South Africa and Botswana. It combines the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park of South Africa and the Gemsbok National Park of Botswana.

Among other parks in development are:

  • Ais-Ais/Richtersveld on the border of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa and southern Namibia.
  • Maputoland, an area encompassing reserves in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.
  • Drakensberg/Maluti, between South Africa and Lesotho.
  • Nyaruwata also stressed that Retosa member nations offer visitors opportunities to scuba dive, mountain climb, play golf, bird watch or go white-water rafting.

    For details, agents can call (212) 286-9300 or access the Web site at www.retosa.com.

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