Discussants at a workshop in Accra have challenged West African leaders to invest more in the tourism sector in order to leverage its numerous benefits.
Subsequently, they have urged the leaders to take a cue from East Africa to make their tourism sector more lucrative and attractive.
The discussants were speaking at this year’s Accra Weizo programme, a tourism conference held annually in different West African countries.
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In a presentation, the Coordinator of the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP), Ms Carmen Nibigira, said East African countries had a lot of advice to offer West Africans. She said one of the key areas to consider was tax waivers on tourism services.
“For East Africa, stakeholders impress upon their leaders and policy makers to consider tax waivers and incentives on tourism services to help promote it,” she said.
Ms Nibigira stated that one other area that the EATP considered was liberalisation and free movement of tourists, noting that it was not the case in West Africa.
She also identified high cost and difficulty in the acquisition of visas in West Africa as against East Africa.
Ms Nibigira lamented the hardships individuals, including tourists, had to go through before moving from one country to the other.
“Can someone from Accra for instance move freely and work in a different West African country without any challenges?” she asked.
From experiences elsewhere, the President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr Bernard Bankole, said there was the need for West African countries to agree to integrate through the tourism sector.
For that to come to fruition, he said, there was the need to engage in information sharing and learn from best practices.
For his part, the Vice-President of the Tour Operators Union of Ghana (TOGHA), Mr Kwesi Eyison, said West Africa as a bloc could start putting in the necessary mechanisms in place to make the sector thrive.