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Speech by the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism & Wildlife, Hon. Najib Balala, Egh, During the Meeting by Experts of the Sub-Committee on Tourism for Africa Union Ministers of Tourism at Movenpick Hotel, Nairobi on Monday 1st October, 2018

October 01, 2018

Mr. Cheikh Bedda, African Union Commission Director of Infrastructure and Energy,
Executive Directors from Regional Economic Communities,
Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Morning!

On behalf of the people and Government of the Republic of Kenya, I welcome you to Magical Kenya.
It gives me great pleasure to host you here in Nairobi for this meeting of the 1st Ordinary Session of the Sub-Committee on Tourism as its specialised technical committee on Transport, Transcontinental and Interregional Infrastructure, Energy and Tourism.
I urge you to find time within your busy schedules, while attending this meeting, to sample the delights that Nairobi and our country have to offer.
The need to place tourism as a key instrument in Africa’s transformation and development was adopted at the 3rd Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in July 2004 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, following its adoption by African Tourism Ministers at 41st World tourism Organization Commission for Africa Meeting in Mahe, Seychelles.
I, therefore, feel delighted that this meeting that seeks to put the tourism agenda on the table has now come to pass here in Nairobi.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The potential of economic growth and development related to the tourism industry are fully-recognized at both the continental and international levels. In the African context, the tourism industry is confronted with a number of issues, not only in its long-term development and prosperity, but also in the strategic orientation.

The increasing need to implement a continental strategy on the tourism sector is imperative. Thus, it is important to develop a tourism action plan with the view to optimize the role of tourism as an engine and catalyst for economic development and growth in Africa, through the establishment of a conducive environment, regional co-operation advocacy and stakeholder participation.
To this end, it is important to recognize that the Sub-Committee on Tourism will address the key challenges with the view to aligning tourism strategies to Agenda 2063.
As Experts, there is need to be innovative and strategize ways in which we can develop Africa as a destination tapping into the various attractions across the continent without creating unfair competition.
We must fully-profile and market our rich tourism resources and attractions - ranging from diverse wildlife, beaches, historical and prehistoric monuments, diverse cultures and pleasant people, highlands, modern facilities to unique eco-lodges - coupled by other activities, such as conferences, business opportunities and sports.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Global tourism growth figures give us hope and faith of the role the sector can play in transforming the world’s economies. In 2017, international tourist arrivals grew to a new record of 1.32 billion tourists compared to 1.23 billion tourists in 2016, which translates to a growth of 7%.
Similarly, international tourist arrivals to Africa grew from 57.4 million in 2016 to 62 million in 2017, which was an 8% increase. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts show that the number of international arrivals to Africa is expected to increase more than double, growing from 62 million in 2017 to 134 million in 2030. This will increase the global market share of Africa by 7%.
I believe there is necessity for Africa as a continent to develop a common strategy that will tap into the various strategies that you have developed as Member Countries of African Union.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In Kenya, we have developed the National Tourism Blueprint (NTB) 2030 that is geared towards guiding and accelerating the development of the tourism sector in the country. The strategy has key enablers, such as the growth of air strategy and development of modern MICE facilities that will spur growth of tourism in the whole continent. These enablers, if well-developed in collaboration with other member countries, will accelerate the growth of tourism in the African Continent.

At the regional front, African destinations should strive to promote intra and inter-regional tourism through the existing regional economic groupings represented here, such as our own East African Community (EAC), the Southern Africa Development Co-operation (SADC), the Economic Co-operation of West Africa (ECOWAS), Common Market for Eastern and South Africa (COMESA), Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This will no doubt grow and stabilize international tourist arrivals to African destinations, which more often than not are prone to seasonality problems. Joint marketing programmes through these regional blocs, should take advantage of the attractions that we have within our borders.
As Africa, we should open our skies and forge partnerships within the continent and globally for access. Air transport connectivity will be enhanced through ongoing negotiations of various bilateral and multilateral air service agreements.
This has led to the increased development of high-end conference venues and hotels across the country, and we hope to see many more being developed. These new hotel brands include Sheraton, Ramada, Hilton, Best Western, Radisson, Marriott and Movenpick.
We urge these new investors to spread out to other parts of the country, where our county governments are ready to embrace them by offering various appealing incentives for development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is often said that Africa has great potential and that Africa is a destination for future. We have to make the time for Africa now. However, in order to fulfill Africa’s potential, key challenges such as infrastructure development, travel facilitation and the full usage of modern technologies to maximize marketing and services needs to be addressed.
I am happy to note that Infrastructural concerns such as airports carrying capacities, road and rail networks, ports and telecommunication are already being addressed.
Other challenges such as access of foreign carriers to national airports, visa facilitation and compliance with international service standards still remain in some of our destinations. The success of tourism as a driver of sustainable development in most African destinations will, therefore, depend on policies and strategies for trade and investment that meet the sector’s needs, and create an overall business environment that is conducive for growth.
This, therefore, has implications on our marketing initiatives and certainly calls for a new paradigm shift in destination marketing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have to move from broad-based to more targeted marketing. In addition, we must aim to have adequate market mix comprising the traditional markets, but also penetrating emerging markets and more importantly, regional and domestic segments. Africa has a high population of middle-class capable of undertaking tourist activities. We have to undertake initiatives to maximize inter-Africa tourism by more explicitly targeting the untapped regional market.
Let us encourage opening of marketing bureaus within the continent as a means of providing information to potential travelers. We have to develop and encourage African destinations participation in tourism exhibitions and trade fairs within the continent. I recognize South Africa’s Indaba and the upcoming Magical Kenya Tourism Expo (MKTE) here in Nairobi to be held from 3rd-5th October at our Kenyatta International Convention Center, as examples on how we can work together and promote tourism within the continent.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my belief that together we can be more competitive and have a stronger voice in an increasingly-competitive world. We stand a better chance to compete globally in co-operation as African destinations. It is in this spirit that we should endeavor to reduce travel restrictions between destinations within the continent. This will in effect transform regions into single destinations with variety of attractions and activities to satisfy a wide range of tourist desires.

I am proud to state that, as East African Community destinations, we have already initiated the joint marketing of East Africa as one tourist destination in line with the integration process. Already, a tourist can travel to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda on a single tourist Visa.
These are indeed milestone developments and we want to expand these initiatives to cover wider areas, as well as duplicate the initiative in other regions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We must ensure that the quality of products and services provided by our service providers corresponds to the branding strategy of the country to be able to attract and retain tourists.
This meeting should provide us with an opportunity to reflect on Africa’s tourism, including the milestones and recent gains, the challenges faced and how to address them, as we jointly pursue a comprehensive roadmap on Africa’s tourism future and how to foster sustainable tourism development in the continent.
Gladly, some African destinations are today renowned tourists’ brands in the world market. However, despite the fact that these destinations are in Africa, the continent remains relatively unappreciated as a destination and a tourism brand.
We must showcase Africa’s diverse products and services, and put in place measures geared towards expanding the African market share by offering new products, expanding tourist expenditure per capita and by improving our international marketing strategies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Africa has to demonstrate to the rest of the world that it is a safe place to visit, amid threats to the tourism sector such as Ebola and Marburg outbreaks, as well as terrorism.
There is need, as the tourism sector, to build up one Brand Africa that will contribute to the African goals. This calls for a choice to be made between different kinds of tourism. Let us be ready to learn from each other’s strengths.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the same time, let us be ready to exchange vital information on how we can uplift the African tourism. We need to shape the future of the tourism industry in Africa. Africa states should work towards a single tourism visa so that Africa is marketed as a single bloc.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We, as Ministers, will endeavour to finalise the issues that you experts will bring before the Ministers’ Session tomorrow, so that tourism is placed firmly on the AU Agenda.
I wish you fruitful discussions in your meeting.
Thank you.

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