UNWTO brought together top tourism and travel practitioners from 20 countries across Africa to explore ways to deliver more effective tourism communications and showcase the sector’s role as a pillar of development.
The first one Communication, Media and Tourism Training Seminar in Africa (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, November 13-15) recognized the increased importance of tourism and the current opportunity to gain greater visibility outside the sector itself. Building on this premise, the three-day event focused on the opportunities to bring tourism into the mainstream of conversation, as well as the ongoing challenges facing communities, destinations and Africa as a region.
“Pressure by doing”
Reflecting UNWTO’s collaborative approach to communications, the workshop prioritized active learning among both participants and trainers. To better understand why tourism matters and how this should be communicated, the first day began with visits to three case studies in and around Victoria Falls:
- Wildlife conservation tourism: The Wildlife Trust’s visit to Victoria Falls provided an opportunity for community-led conservation in action, offering a better understanding of where tourism supports wildlife conservation and where it can do more.
- Tourism for development: Face-to-face meetings with Umuzi Village leaders and members shed light on the challenges small destinations face in accessing the benefits that tourism has to offer, especially in terms of outreach, communications and promotion.
- Tourism for nature: The rainforests of the Victoria Falls National Park served as an example of tourism’s ability to support ecosystem conservation, but again highlighted how the sector’s full potential is not always realised.
The field trips provided the basis for the interactive learning sessions and workshops over the next two days. The 50 participants, selected from 20 countries and from communications, destination management and tourism management, were tasked with tackling three of the key challenges facing tourism communicators today: pitching to the media, building and maintaining relationships with the media and focusing the narrative on tourism for development.
The workshop was informed by presentations from UNWTO experts as well as from across the media spectrum (Meta, Channels TV, TraveMedia Ireland) and leading content creators. Interactive presentations again focused on the most important issues, including ways to put tourism in the mainstream media, using the power of social media to develop tourism, working with the media and communicating effectively to showcase the importance of tourism to culture, heritage and communities .
Decisions and debates
With the focus on Field Trips as a foundation, participants were tasked with presenting their solutions to the three main challenges outlined. With an emphasis again on interactive learning, different backgrounds and perspectives informed the discussions on how best to present tourism to the wider media, how to work with the media in an ever-changing landscape and how to move beyond tourism as a simple leisure activity time. The discussions highlighted the shared goals of various destinations, while clarifying the knowledge gaps that still need to be filled, with UNWTO ready to provide additional media training.
Along with exploring solutions for growing tourism as a media topic, the workshop also focused on crisis communications, again using the diverse experiences of participants and case studies to identify ways to be more proactive and build preparedness.