Tight links between public and private sectors are needed to transform tourism growth across the African continent, according to UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.
He was speaking at the 61st meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa, held in Abuja, Nigeria, which was attended by 18 tourism ministers and key tourism stakeholders from 36 countries in Africa.
Professor Marina Novelli, Professor of Tourism and International Development and Academic Lead for the University of Brighton’s Responsible Futures Agenda, was amongst the guest speakers. Her work on fostering Responsible Futures through Sustainable Tourism is aimed at contributing to a more just and environmentally sustainable society through the development of research and enterprise collaborations with local, national and international organisations and industry partners.
The UNWTO Secretary-General said: “The priorities of my mandate have been formed by listening to the needs of our member states and include the crucial targets of creating more and better tourism jobs, improving tourism education and fostering innovation.
“We need to build tight links between public and private sectors for tourism to transform growth across the continent, and for the benefit of its people.”
‘Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development’ was the theme of this year’s seminar and Professor Novelli was invited to contribute to discussion held during the panel on “Broadening the scope, establishing a statistical tourism framework for Measuring Sustainable Tourism in Africa.
She said: “Participants underscored how tourism projects can contribute to poverty alleviation, the importance of finding innovative approaches to developing tourism in the region, and the need to find and foster new partnerships and resources to develop the sector.
“Against the backdrop of the growth of international tourism in Africa, tourism’s overall economic impact needs to be measured accurately in order for tourism strategies to effectively contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. But, in order to measure successes in this direction, there is an urgent need for monitoring the implementation of policies and regulations – in Africa there are numerous success stories and good practices which could be used as benchmark, but there are equally a number of unsustainable practices, which are ignored to give way to dominant economic interests.”
The panel was held on World Environmental Day and Professor Novelli highlighted the paramount importance of implementing a ‘plastic-free tourism sector’. She said the necessity of providing sector players with clear directions on how to operate in a more sustainable manner, such as fairer employment conditions and access to opportunities for women and youth, effective skills training programmes, and reengineered green practices that can truly make a difference “because being sustainable makes business sense in the long term”.
The ministerial dialogue and the panel that followed addressed the significance of collecting and compiling quantitative and qualitative data, as well as the importance of commitments from national stakeholders and institutional partnerships for a rigorous tourism statistics system.
Professor Novelli said: “The University is an Affiliate Member of the UNWTO and my invitation to attend and contribute to the event is symptomatic of the historical engagement we have had with the sector in Africa. This event has certainly contributed dramatically to the expansion of my knowledge and engagement in the broader debate on sustainable tourism for development in Africa and I look forward to many more collaborations with colleagues form the UNWTO and across the African continent.”