This photo taken on July 14, 2023 shows a hot air balloon in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. (Xinhua)
Delegates attending the 23rd World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Thursday called for joint and concerted efforts to promote sustainable travel and tourism industry in Africa to accelerate economic growth and create employment opportunities.
KIGALI, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) — Delegates attending the 23rd World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Thursday called for joint and concerted efforts to promote sustainable travel and the tourism industry in Africa to stimulate economic growth and create employment opportunities.
They were speaking at the official opening ceremony of a three-day conference that brought together more than 1,000 participants, including heads of state, politicians, government officials, travel leaders and conservationists from around the world, to discuss the future of global travel and tourism.
“This summit is not about Rwanda; it is for Africa. Africa, a remarkable continent, is being transformed,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC President and CEO.
Simpson predicts that over the next 10 years, Africa’s tourism sector will grow by 5.1 percent annually, stressing that promoting sustainable travel and tourism in Africa is key to the continent’s strong economic development.
This photo taken on Aug. 12, 2023 shows a view of the Cape of Good Hope in Cape Town, South Africa. (Xinhua/Dong Jianghui)
“Advancement in tourism and travel is not just about the makeup of our sector, it’s about how we welcome difference, how we look after people – our own people and customers, how we create a sense of belonging, a sense of home,” she said.
Speaking at the event, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Africa is endowed with rich, abundant natural and cultural tourist attractions and tourism contributes significantly to most African economies.
“Africa must continue to prioritize sustainable tourism practices by minimizing the environmental footprint of tourism activities, promoting conservation of natural resources and supporting community-based tourism initiatives,” she said.
According to her, Africa should also emphasize ecotourism, which promotes responsible travel to natural areas, contributing to conservation efforts and providing sustainable economic benefits to local communities.
Hassan highlighted that the tourism sector contributes up to 17.2 percent of Tanzania’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 25 percent of the country’s total export earnings. “Africa can use tourism to drive economic growth and create employment opportunities.”
A giraffe and a zebra are seen in the Taita Hills Game Reserve, Taita-Taveta County, Kenya, October. 27, 2023 (Xinhua/Han Xu)
Speaking at the summit, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said that globally the travel and tourism industry has recovered strongly, but the high cost of air travel to and within Africa remains a barrier.
“Implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market is therefore an important priority. We must not lose sight of our own continental market. Africans are the future of global tourism as our middle class continues to grow at a rapid pace in the coming decades,” he stressed.
Kagame said Rwanda has identified tourism as a key driver of economic growth and employment in the country. “Every year we welcome so many visitors who come to Rwanda to enjoy the unique natural beauty, attend sporting events or participate in gatherings. It’s a privilege and a trust we don’t take for granted.”
The WTTC Global Summit, being held for the first time on the African continent, will discuss efforts to support the recovery of the sector and the transition to a safer, more sustainable, inclusive and sustainable future. The event runs until Friday. ■