By Byron Mutingwende
The tourism on the continent can only improve if the brand of Africa is projected in a positive way, Thebe Ikalafeng, the Founder and Chairman of Brand Leadership Group has said.
Thebe was speaking at the Sanganai/Hlanganani market workshop at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Bulawayo on Thursday 28 September 2017.
“Despite being the second largest and most populous continent, the image of Africa does not reflect its economic diversity, entrepreneurial aspirations or the optimism that goes with its rising investment, growth and greater stability,” Ikalefeng said.
The brand specialist said Africa is projected as a continent of extreme poverty, war and poor leadership. That was despite the fact that it is a diverse continent whose 55 countries have unique culture, heritage and attributes.
“CEOs globally are optimistic about growth in Africa. Total arrivals into Africa have gone up to 14% compared to intra-Arica arrivals, which stand at 12.6%. However that set of statistics could be disputed because some nationals just cross to neighbouring countries without necessarily going through immigration formalities.”
According to statistics from 2011-2015, China and India top the world’s fastest growing economies in terms of annual average GDP growth as the first and second respectively. Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana and Zambia are the six African countries, which are in the top ten of the world’s fastest growing economies. That presents an opportunity to reap huge tourism dividend from the continent.
In terms of annual labour productivity growth, Africa is outperforming the United States and Western Europe in productivity gains. Ikalafeng bemoaned the fact that travelling in Africa was not easy for Africans. He urged the countries to relax their strict immigration laws, come up with a common visa and currencies as a strategy to improve tourism.
As a solution, there was a need to promote intra-African tourism. For example, Zimbabwe and Zambia could jointly own the Victoria Falls instead of competing for tourists. On the other hand, the harmonisation and coordination of policies, plans and programmes coupled with the joint promotion of tourism products, establishment of efficient tourism products and establishment of tourism enterprises would come in handy.
Ikalafeng encouraged Africans to highlight, encourage, reinforce, communicate and align their nation’s attributes to present their nations in a way that helps them to reach thier defined strategic goals.
He praised South Africa for embracing Ubuntu, diversity (the willingness to embrace differences), its ability to see beyond hurdles and the ability to think out of the box. As a result, tourism in South Africa accounts for 10% of GDP.
Uloma Egbuna, the Chief Executive of Tour Brokers International said Nigerians were projecting a better brand of themselves internationally as exemplified by its popular musicians like P-Square, Wiz Kid and writers like Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe.
Egbuna said in order to bridge the gap and promote several tourism products to countries such as Nigeria, one must be compelled to understand the flow of tourists between countries and discuss the interaction of the demand for, and supply of tourism services.
She called on the need to position Zimbabwe as a meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, or Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE) destination as a way of bridging the tourism gap. To do that it was important to create business opportunities that encourage investments.
The strategy of encouraging youths to participate in tourism was alo working internationally, Egbuna said.
“It’s important for Zimbabwe to sponsor and participate in relevant trade related events. It also needs to promote family-focused tourism activities and advertise to educate the Nigerian market about Zimbabwe’s tourism potentials. On a lighter note, Include a Nigerian delicacy in your menu, Nigerians love their food!
“As travel industry professionals charged with the task of growing in-bound tourism to Zimbabwe, we should not just be interested in the tourists, we should want to know more about what they do, who they come with and where they go. These information will help you continuously improve your services to not only attract more tourists from Nigeria but keep them actively engaged while in Zimbabwe,” Egbuna added.