Tourism experts meet in South Africa to discuss growth of sector

BY: Seth J. Bokpe, Cape Town, South Africa
Mr Sisa Ntshona
Mr Sisa Ntshona

Travel and tourism experts and innovators from Ghana and other parts of the world are meeting in Cape Town, South Africa to deliberate on how technology can drive the growth of the tourism sector on the continent.

The three-day event will provide a platform for the over 200 delegates to share ideas and discuss how technology can be used to accelerate inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Undiscovered area

At an opening reception of the meeting last Tuesday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of South African Tourism, Mr Sisa Ntshona, said it was ironic that Africa, with its more than one billion people, had less than five per cent of the global tourism market.

“We are literally the last undiscovered area that the world is looking for,” he said on a cosy night of good traditional music, wine and networking.

Global home renting platform, Airbnb, is organising the summit as part of its $1 million commitment to boost community-led tourism in Africa with the support of Tourism South Africa, the World Bank Group, The City of Cape Town, Wesgro, The Africa Travel Association and the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

Airbnb says its commitment is part of a vision to empower communities through home sharing and to promote people-to-people tourism that benefits local families and their communities.

Inclusiveness

With that as a background, Mr Ntshona said there was no better way to experience the continent than through living with the ordinary people.

“Inclusiveness becomes key. That is the drive we at South Africa Tourism want to be part of. It is important that as African economies, we raise up our hands that we want to play a role in tourism because we need the entire sector, the entire colony to be taken along,” he stated.

He, however, said until everyone was included, “we are creating a future problem for ourselves. We want to use this wonderful platform of the Airbnb to let the shining stars, the hidden gems, the ones that are unknown, the heroes and heroines that one never sees to become visible”.

He also urged the participants to take time to know one another’s language, foods, flavours, among others and how they could be packaged to appeal to the world.

Opportunities

South Africa's Airbnb Country Manager, Ms Velma Corcoran, observed that while there were potential and opportunities for tourism on the continent, there were also questions that needed to be answered to grow the sector on the continent.

She said the summit, therefore, provided a platform for policy makers, government officials, tourism professionals, entrepreneurs, grassroots innovators and Airbnb hosts to engage in a manner that would turn the continent’s tourism fortunes around.

With huge hotel bills said to be a major hindrance to tourism in some parts of the continent, some participants told the Daily Graphic that opening homes to tourists would create more opportunities for tourism.