‘Tourism remains key facilitator of W. Africa’s economic growth’

Mrs Catherine Abelema Afeku, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, on Tuesday said it is time for West Africa to appreciate that tourism can provide the economic base to offer competitive advantage to development through its unique culture and natural resources.

She said the major challenge to addressing the competition was the general lack of prioritisation of the tourism sector amongst member states of ECOWAS.

“In fact, very few countries have fully-fledged tourism ministries, while in others the sector has been combined with other sectors mostly, transport and natural resources, or as a department or directorate under a parent ministry,” she said.

The minister made this observation at the opening of the maiden West African Integrated Travel (WAIT) Forum, on the theme, ‘Promoting integrated travel within West Africa – Bridging the Gap’ in Accra.

She said the two-day forum organised in collaboration with the West African Tourism Organisation (WATO) was aimed at increasing tourism to the region through sustainable development and initiatives, effective destination marketing and improved regional competitiveness.

Mrs. Afeku said tourism remained the key economic activities within countries in the sub-region that was creating numerous jobs and a source of direct and indirect livelihood for millions.

“Our region is famous for its cultural diversity and rich history and it is also endowed with a lot of attractive attractions, from coastal forts, unique mud architecture to distinctive landscapes, national parks and unique wildlife viewing opportunities,” she said.

She noted that, despite the diversity of tourism natural resources in West Africa, the sub-region possessed a huge potential of economic growth, which should be harnessed if the right systems were put in place.

She said according to the WTTC, in 2016, Travel and Tourism generated UD$ 7.6 trillion and 292 million jobs, equivalent to one in ten jobs in the global economy, adding that the WTTC also estimated that 3.8 million jobs, including 2.4 million indirect jobs could be created by the tourism industry in Sub Saharan Africa over the next ten years.

Mrs. Afeku said a study conducted by the United Nations University in 2017, pointed to lack of vibrant value chain linkages in African Tourism in general, that reduced earnings of regional economies.

Mr Akwasi Agyemang, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Tourism Authority said the forum is not just an event but a process to kick start WAIT towards the formulation of a framework that would eventually grow in government leaders to apply their minds and focus on the practical steps and initiatives needed to increase tourism.

He said the forum would also open up new possibilities to help move towards regional tourism integration, adding that, “West African sub-region can expect to benefit from tourism, and tourism authorities need to identify key areas of integration, marketing and of shared best practices and strategies,” he said.

Mr Agyemang said West Africa governments needed to draft polices and plans that would foster tourism and contribute to intra West African tourism and contribute to sustainable, borderless and interconnected integration.

He said one of the aims of WAIT was to facilitate the development of a shared vision that would strive to grow and develop tourism, and Ghana was committed to work with other West African countries to position West Africa as a viable regional destination.

Madam Ola Wright, CEO, WATO said it was important to build a West Africa that the future generation would be proud to live in , and to invite other people globally to come and visit.

She said as West Africans, what makes us united is greater than what would divide us, so we must come together and focus on the individuality of each country in tourism.

GNA

 

 

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