Time to rethink tourism industry, says President Mokgweetsi Masisi

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Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the tourism industry in Africa and around the world is under pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, new technologies, and constantly evolving client expectations.

President Masisi was speaking at Day 2 of the 5th Africa Tourism Leadership Forum at the Grand Palm Hotel Convention Centre in Gaborone on Tuesday morning, with more than 400 delegates in attendance.

“Tourism is experiencing rapid change disrupted that advancing technologies and shifting customer expectations – something we should work on as a collective,” says Masisi.

“A new generation of tourists in emerging and the hospitality and tourism sector is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way it operates occasioned by changing global economies as well as government policies.”

He has challenged the thought leaders attending the conference and hundreds of others following proceedings virtually to devise strategies to build resilience in line with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s theme of ‘Rethinking Tourism.’

The forum, which is expected to conclude on Wednesday, aims to provide a platform for innovative leadership dialogue to drive sustainable growth in Africa’s tourism economy as well as promote sustainable growth in Africa and intra-Africa travel through innovative leadership, dialogue and collaboration.

Africa’s tourism and hospitality took a huge knock as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world in 2019. Africa’s travel and tourism sector had, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), employed more than 24 million people in 2019.

However, the following year the African Union (UN) announced that Africa, whose tourism revenue largely depended on foreign travellers, had lost almost $55 million in travel and tourism revenues as well as two million jobs in the first three months of the pandemic as a result of travel restrictions. It was this that highlighted the need for intra-Africa travel which is not the focus of the ongoing conference in Botswana.

Botswana Minister of Environment and Tourism, Nani Kereng, says Africa is challenged to keep up with new technological trends.

“Doing business globally has transformed demanding that we utilise digitalisation to respond to fast-changing consumer needs. We are therefore challenged as Africa to align to changing trends for effective ease of doing business and reposition Africa as the continent for the global travel market and investment opportunities.”

She says the continent is endowed with natural resources that define its beauty, which it should capitalise on to improve tourism to Africa.

“These are resources that have remained pristine due to sound conservation policies and as well as adopting strategies that will lessen the effects of climate change in order to maintain its e aesthetic value. We should therefore guard our resources more intently, so we leave a legacy for future generations.”

Masisi says the forum should play a key role in educating and promoting the unique natural beauty of Africa.

“This forum will play a key role in our quest to educate and promote the unique natural beauty and history that defines a people, countries and a global distinct continent. Working together, forging partnerships and collaborations is key to building sustainable tourism economies. Our continent is renowned for its beauty and the quality of its investments in high-service excellence. Now more than ever before, we must continue to maintain this enviable reputation.”

The conference will conclude on Wednesday.