ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Africa is dramatically underrepresented in
world tourism arrivals and earnings, according to Ousmane NDiaye,
the World Tourism Organization's representative for Africa.
He told delegates at the annual Africa Travel Association
congress here last week that press reports on famine and other
tragedies are partly to blame, but he also blamed African
governments for failing to put their natural attractions "on the
According to the statistics, NDiaye said, the 25 million
international arrivals recorded on the African continent last year
accounted for only 4% of the world's total arrivals, and its $10
billion in tourism receipts accounted for only 2% of the world's
The "encouraging" news, he said, is the potential for African
tourism, including WTO's projections of 45.6 million arrivals in
Africa by 2010 and 74.9 million by 2020.
In comments focused on Africa south of the Sahara, he called on
governments to develop clear marketing strategies aimed at key
markets and to do so in concert with their private sectors.
To date, he said, the private sectors generally have been weak
and kept out of the loop when governments plan tourism
NDiaye also called on African countries to develop new products,
"preferably with a marked ecological content" because Africa is "an
ecotourism destination par excellence."
He urged nations to keep up-to-date information readily
available, to harness new information technologies and to consider
supporting regional information centers to be maintained in prime
markets, such as the U.S.
He added that WTO believes governments, besides working with
their private sectors, need to cooperate with one another to do
The themes of NDiaye's remarks -- that Africa has an image
problem and that cooperation is the key to boosting tourism
arrivals -- were echoed during a half day of panel and Q&A
periods devoted to marketing the continent.
Jerry Bird, publisher of ATA's Africa Travel magazine and
operator of the group's Web site, said he was "determined" to add a
second ATA Web site, which he has dubbed RealAfrica.com.
Its purpose, he said, would be to highlight the positive sides
of travel and life in Africa, as an antidote to news in the
Speaker David Saunders, chief executive officer of Venue
International Professionals in Washington, a tour operator and
tourism consulting firm, laid out his list of recommended
strategies, in this case for the ATA.
He said the group needs to enhance its use of public relations
to get the kind of press the organization and continent need; he
urged consistently promoting Africa as "the tourism destination of
the 21st century."
As for cooperative efforts to promote Africa, Saunders looked at
ways ATA members can help each other. He said one thing ATA members
in the U.S. "can do best is to bring their expertise to their
counterparts here [in Africa]."
He also called on fellow members to "facilitate relationships
across the ocean through education" -- through education of agents
and others on both sides of the Atlantic about the others' business
Panelist Marlene Melton, operator of the New York-based African
Ventures marketing company and an ad manager for the New York
Times, outlined a model for regional cooperation at the government
Key elements in the model proposal included a joint advertising
campaign, a regional travel mart, a tourism investment conference,
use of the Internet to full advantage and an annual full-color
sales brochure and video materials.
Meanwhile, she noted, regional cooperation already is taking
shape in some areas, citing the Regional Tourism of Southern Africa
group, which recently retained the services of a public relations
firm in the U.S.