TO speed up recovery, especially in the hospitality sector, in a post-COVID-19 era, the Nigerian Government has urged African leaders to focus on rural and intra-African tourism because of the capacity of rural tourism in creating employment for youths and women.
At the 63rd Virtual Meeting of the UNWTO-Commission for Africa (CAF), Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said, “for us in Africa, after the pandemic, focusing on rural tourism will help speed up the recovery process in the Travel and Tourism Sector.”
He noted however, that “it is imperative for the UNWTO to support Africa with a ‘Marshall Plan’ of sorts, in terms of technical assistance, capacity building and grants.”
He recognized the travel and tourism sector as a driver of growth, accounting for one in every ten jobs globally, and noted that the employment opportunities benefitted a variety of people, especially the low-skilled, the youth and women, engaged in arts, crafts, culture and heritage.
Mohammed regretted that the sector is severely impacted by the pandemic, at national and international levels, and emphasized the need to implement defined country specific protocols to manage the impact of the pandemic on the sector.
The minister said that “as Nigeria gradually opens up, just like the rest of the world, with domestic flights due to begin around the end of June and hotels and restaurants coming back to business, new protocols are being put in place for the safety and security of all.
“They include training of personnel on security and safety measures, infection control, adherence to government protocols, enhanced hygiene measures, use of personal protective equipment and facility sanitation.
“We are also studying the new set of recommendation by the UNWTO as well as the ‘Safe Travel Protocols‘ designed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) for the purpose of domesticating them.”
The host, Seychelles Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Port and Marine, Didier Dogley, said that to emerge stronger from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, there is need to strengthen collaboration and for leaders to be proactive.
For the CAF Chairman and Zambia Minister of Tourism and Arts, Ronald Chitotela, in revamping the tourism industry, “there is the need for greater partnership across board.”
The Secretary General of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili called for unity of purpose to reposition Africa as the best tourists destination and said African countries must put resources together towards a digital transformation of the industry.
The African Union (AU) representative, Dr Amani Abou-Zeid said the ministers should take advantage of the effects of Covid-19 to develop domestic and regional tourism.
Abou-Zeid, the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the AU Commission, said the tourism sector is key to the development of the continent since it accounts for 6.5 per cent of the workforce in Africa.
Cape Verde will host the 64th meeting of UNWTO-CAF scheduled for next year