Africa hosts UNWTO meeting in anticipation of tourism boom

LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) — The co-hosting of the 20th United Nations World Tourism (UNWTO) general assembly by Zambia and Zimbabwe has been described by many as a milestone in promoting tourism development in Africa.

The general assembly is the main statutory meeting of the UNWTO and the most important gathering of senior tourism officials and high-level representatives from around the world.

The rising continent, where many countries boast an annual economic growth of at least 5 percent, is placing high hopes on the session underway in the Zambian tourist capital of Livingstone and the Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls.

During the Aug. 24-29 event, which attracts more than 4, 000 delegates, the two countries commended the UNWTO for giving them an opportunity to host the event, stressing the meeting is held when tourism has become a pillar of economic development in Africa.

Sylvia Masebo, Zambian minister of tourism and arts, believes that the hosting of the event will have a lasting impact on the tourism industry as the two nations now have an opportunity to showcase various tourism attractions to the entire world.

“I am therefore alive to the fact that my country is carrying the hopes and aspirations of an entire continent. Zambia’s success is Africa’s success,” she said in her welcome message.

“We expect to leave an indelible mark on our memories, and that it be part of our generational legacy, marking a clear turning point in the tourism fortunes of our two countries, our regions and indeed our continent,” she added.

While it is acknowledged that tourism is on the rise in many African nations, what should be borne in mind is that the sector is beset by challenges which need to be tackled for improvement.

Although international tourist arrivals in Africa have surged from 15 million in 1990 to 50 million recorded last year and tourism earnings from 6 billion U. S. dollars in 1990 to 34 billion dollars last year, its share of global tourism is only 5 percent and its revenues from the industry accounts for only 4 percent in the world. Challenges to the sustainable development of the tourism in Africa include poor infrastructure, unreliable air transport, taxes on tourism investment, low levels of tourism skills, safety and high crime rates, visa requirements and inadequate accommodation space.

During the official opening of the general assembly, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe expressed concern at the problem of connectivity in Africa, saying Africa will only be able to promote tourism by increasing intra-Africa travel. The Zimbabwean leader described visa requirements as a serious problem, calling for urgent measures to undress the unfriendly visa and border regimes existing on the continent to benefit more from global economic cake.

“The current situation where Africa only has a four percent share of global tourism revenue in spite of its massive natural and cultural tourism resources is a matter of great concern to us. There is no way Africa can increase its portion of the global tourism cake without first promoting intra-Africa travel,” he said.

The problem of visa requirements was also high on the agenda during a roundtable meeting of ministers responsible for tourism in Africa held at Elephant Hills Hotel in Zimbabwe on the sidelines of the general assembly on Monday.

According to a communique issued after the meeting, the ministers acknowledged that crossing international borders is a fundamental experience, while expressing concerns that complicated visa procedures have continued to impede tourists from traveling.

The ministers agreed on the need to speedily remove visa requirements and introduce other measures such as eVisas or introduce visa on arrival measures.

According to a study by the World Bank aimed at helping Africa increase tourism, airfares in Africa were almost 50 percent higher than elsewhere and charter tours were 20-30 percent more expensive compared with other destinations.

The study shows that only 10 percent of the region’s 390, 000 hotel rooms are estimated to meet international standards while road transport was found to be notoriously poor in much of Africa.

As UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rufai said, the future of Africa’s development lies with the tourism industry, hence the need for countries to increase efforts to promote the sector.

By Mu Dong, Elias Shilangwa   2013-08-28


Major new investment flows targeting African travel and tourism

Following last week’s announcement of the launch of GATEtrip (Tourism Responsible Investment Platform) by GATE Global Impact, the same company has today launched a program with Indigo Communications of Kenya to raise funds to bring low-cost Impact WIFI across African countries, starting immediately with Kenya. A key component of the program will be to bring new investment for Travel & Tourism related projects and services connected to the network. Geoffrey Lipman, Director of GATEtrip and President of ICTP said, “We are committed to bringing new Impact Investment to local communities in Africa by linking Travel & Tourism investment to the “new connectivity paradigm.” We are especially delighted that ICTP Members will have the opportunity to engage in this new initiative.”

Partnership between leading Impact Investment technology platform, GATE Global Impact, and Indigo Group Limited a satellite-based telecommunications provider for Africa – to drive Impact Investment capital for wireless Internet in the developing world via the joint venture “Gate Impact Partners”.

Indigo Group Limited has helped pioneer ImpactWifi, a new technology using innovative business models, which provide low cost, high speed, wireless broadband to the developing world. The ability to connect rural communities and deliver good is being branded “Impact Wifi.” This initiative creates opportunities for employment, education and healthcare that will positively impact millions of lives. Through deploying solar-powered base stations and utilizing unused TV band spectrum, ImpactWIFI will bring Internet to some of the most rural areas in Africa, bridging the digital divide. “Mawingu,” Kiswahili for cloud, is the name of the first deployment of ImpactWIFI, which is connecting remote communities in Kenya, providing power, content and life changing opportunities.

“Impact Investing has emerged in recent years as a way to promote and fund both social and environmental projects with the possibility to generate financial returns, while effecting change. Impact Wifi is the branded name by Gate impact partners utilizing “TV White spaces“ to provide low cost assess to Wi-Fi in rural areas, beginning to close the digital divide starting in Africa. Now it is poised to take a quantum leap as governments, seeking to tap alternative investment pools, adapt regulatory controls to expand this marketplace. At the same time, Crowdfunding, using the power of the web 3.0 and social media, will in the coming years profoundly alter how entrepreneurs and SME’s access capital at the base of the pyramid globally,” said Vincent Molinari, CEO of GATE Global Impact.

Gate Impact Partners “GIP” has been formed as a joint venture to raise capital that will be deployed in Impact Wifi infrastructure projects around the world. Pete Henderson, Chairman of “GIP” says “The funding of Impact Wifi projects around the world will have a massive impact on people’s lives. These investments will improve the quality of life, create employment and have long lasting positive impacts on the recipients. The fund is designed to provide a return to investors thereby making this a long term, sustainable model. We are excited by the opportunity to provide such meaningful change to so many.”

Another practical application of ImpactWIFI will be to increase connectivity for the vital tourism sector by driving Impact Investment through GATE Global Impact’s dedicated GATEtrip platform, supporting community-based visitor related projects and services.

“GIP” will be powered by GATE Impact’s GATEWAY Platform; a robust, regulatory compliant electronic end-to-end solution for buyers and sellers of Impact Investments – investments that have the ability to generate a measurable social and/or environmental benefit alongside a potential for financial return. The GATE Impact platform has been hailed as unique in its ability to provide investors with the transparency, efficiency, metrics and ability to find liquidity they need to identify and transact securities in this emerging asset class. All securities are offered through GATE US, a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).


President Uhuru Kenyatta pledges to speed up integration in East Africa

The Kenyan government on Wednesday pledged its commitment to expediting the regional integration in East Africa by promoting the free movement of labor, goods and services.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government has also undertook to deepen Kenya’s economic ties with neighboring countries—South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, and to take steps towards eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers while encouraging greater collaboration of regional partners.

The president said the regional integration will be spearheaded through joint infrastructure programs and investments to harness the collective potential of the region.

“I have enumerated these commitments to assure Your Excellencies of my government’s wholesome involvement in the projects encompassed in our summit’s action points,” Kenyatta said in the coastal city of Mombasa where he commissioned a new berth at the port.

The facility reflects the expanded capacity at the port of Mombasa and will enable berthing of large container ships. It is the single largest berth capacity expansion undertaken in 35 years.

“We have no option. This is the call of our time. We are the custodians of the gateway to East Africa. Our regional brothers and sisters depend on us to ensure that they never fall in want or suffer unnecessary inconvenience owing to inefficiency or corruption at this port,” he said.

The Mombasa-based port facility is the best equipped on the East African coast, being the second largest port in terms of tonnage and containers handled after Durban of South Africa. It serves the hinterland markets of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Kenyatta has said Mombasa port must position itself to serve the interests of the entire East Africa region, and that the government plans to transform the port into the largest, busiest and most business-friendly sea-port on the East African coast.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda said the port was critical in assisting producers of goods and services in the region to access local and international markets.

Museveni, who is also the current chairman of the East African Community, challenged regional states to unite in a bid to create a bigger market for regional products and services as well as consolidate their bargaining power with major global economies and trading blocs.

He lauded his Kenyan counterpart’s personal efforts that helped remove non-tariff barriers such as roadblocks and corruption resulting in faster movements of goods, people and services between Kenya and Uganda.

During the commissioning, Kenyatta expressed his government’s readiness to improve road and rail links with neighboring countries, starting with the building of a standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Malaba in order to increase rail freight from the current 4 percent to at least 50 percent in the next few years.

He said Kenya was also committed to the Lamu Port-South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) project to pave way for the transformation of transport and logistics and accelerate the social and economic development of the region.

“Aside from infrastructure development, my government is hastening the removal of barriers to more effective trade through the rationalization of procedures and systems with a view to eliminating unnecessary business costs,” Kenyatta said.

East African leaders agree on fast-track visa

MOMBASA, Kenya (Xinhua) — Leaders from the five East African Community (EAC) countries on Wednesday agreed on a single tourist visa for the region to facilitate tourism industry following a one-day summit in the Kenyan coast city of Mombasa.

The agreement was reached by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, his counterparts Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and representatives from South Sudan and Burundi. Their relevant ministers should finalize the modality of the use of national Identity Cards (ID) as travel documents before Oct. 15.

Speaking at the second infrastructure summit, Kenyatta said efforts are being made by customs and revenue officials in all the five countries to ensure that free movement of people within the EAC is achieved by January 2014.

“We have had tremendous progress with regard to the single tourist visa, and with regard to movement of people through use of ID cards, voters’ cards, students’ IDs to allow free movement of our people within our countries,” he said.

The five countries have a wide range of tourists’ products that compliment each other and therefore would enable the region capture a huge market.

Industry watchers say the common visa will ease travel arrangements for those intending to tour East African attractions.

At the moment, foreign tourists visiting EAC countries are required to stamp their passports in each EAC country visited.

Tourism is a vital sector for the entire East African trading bloc and has contributed immensely to the development of the region.

Besides foreign exchange, the industry also creates thousands of employment opportunities for East Africans.

The ministers responsible for tourism also agreed that partner countries should fully address the negative image portrayed and subsequent negative travel advisories issued.

The summit was a follow up to the first one held in Uganda two months ago which resolved to strengthen the East African infrastructure network in order to enhance cross-border trade.

“I am gratified that Your Excellencies share a common vision to catalyze the momentum of regional growth through deliberate actions to address challenges,” Kenyatta said.

The region also seeks to introduce a single currency under a monetary union. The monetary union in the EAC with a combined population estimated at 135 million and with a collective GDP of 79.25 billion US dollars will have a great positive economic impact for the entire region.

The tourism sector has started harmonizing hospitality services policies and laws in the region in anticipation for a full cooperation and to sustainably utilize the resources as a region.

Kenyatta said that although there is still a lot of work to be done, tremendous progress has been made towards achieving the goal of a single tourist visa for the region.

The EAC has been working on the common passport and visa since 2005, but the initiatives have been delayed due to security concerns, poor infrastructure, and disagreements over visa fee schedules and modality of revenue sharing.

Kenyatta said the region will be more successful if the countries move together.

He said the EAC has potential to attract potential investors and open up a region with a market of over 200 million people.

The next summit will be held in Kigali, Rwanda during the third week of October to review the progress in implementing the outcome of the summit.

Kenyatta called on the regional leaders to remain focused on strengthening their coordination on common projects and programs that spur economic growth in the region.

He also presented a report on the best means of exploiting electricity resources within each partner state, including such alternatives as nuclear, geo-thermal and other forms of renewable energy.

During the Entebbe Summit, Kenya was tasked with spearheading the electricity generation and distribution as well as the development of two regional pipelines to pump refined oil between Eldoret-Kampala and Kigali and crude oil between Uganda-Kenya and South Sudan.

Kenyatta urged the summit to consider the model that offers the best returns for the region, saves implementation time without compromising competitiveness or required standards.

Leaders in the region should address infrastructure links and other communication bottlenecks that impede enhanced movement of people, goods and services across the borders, he said, stressing the need for more efficient transport and communications infrastructure.

East African Community integration benefits boost Kenya tourism

NAIROBI (Xinhua) — The ongoing East African Community (EAC) integration efforts will boost tourists arrivals into Kenya, a government official said on Wednesday.

Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director Murithi Ndegwa said told journalists in Nairobi that relaxed immigration rules will result in more Ugandans, Rwandan visiting Kenya.

“We are expecting the number of incoming tourists from the EAC to increase as a result of regional integration efforts,” Ndegwa said during the preparations for the 23rd edition of the International Maralal Camel Derby.

The event, which has attracted participants from 16 different countries, will take place from Aug. 30 –Sept. 1 in northern Kenya.

Beginning January 2014, Kenya, Uganda and Rwandese nationals will be permitted to travel into each other countries by using their identity cards. The EAC is also in the final stages of implementing a single visa for the five member states.

KTB said that growth rates of tourists from the EAC are growing faster than that of traditional sources markets in the west.

“We have therefore set a target of at least two percent annual growth for tourists from both domestic and the EAC member states,” he said. The managing director said that the number of domestic tourists in Kenya is also increasing.

“Last year, they accounted for 43 percent of all bed nights in Kenya,” he said. According to Ndgewa, the expanding economy has resulted in a middle class that has high disposal income.

“Kenyans are now more aware of tourism, which was once the preserve of foreign tourists. The local tourists play an important role in stabilizing the tourism sector that is heavily dependent on international arrivals,” he said.

KTB noted that military interventions along the Indian Ocean coastline have impacted positively on Kenya’s cruise industry.

“Piracy has reduced dramatically and this has led to an increase in the number of tourists calling on Kenya’s port of Mombasa,” he said.

Samburu County Deputy Governor Joseph Lemarkat said that the camel derby will be an opportunity to open up Kenya’s northern region for tourism and other economic investments.

“It will also forge peace and harmony amongst the conflict prone pastoral communities living in the area,” he said.

Lemarkat noted that another aim of the race is to encourage locals to appreciate and participate in the tourism and conservation sectors.

According to the deputy governor, Kenya’s northern region has a rich cultural heritage.

“We are therefore encouraging the business community to invest in the tourism and real estate sectors of the county,” he said..

By Chris Mgidu and Joy Nabukewa MOMBASA, Kenya (Xinhua)

Ecotourism vs. Sustainable Tourism

Areas of Expertise, Economic Growth, Environment & NRM by kgenereux

Photo credit: Sustainable Futures

980 million people traveled internationally in 2010, a 4% increase over the previous year, and forecasts expect 1.6 billion tourists by the year 2020. Travel & Tourism as a sector accounts for 258 million jobs globally, and provides crucial opportunities for investment, economic growth, and fostering cultural awareness.  Tourism can also be a powerful tool for tackling major challenges such as conservation and poverty alleviation.

But how do environmentally and socially conscious travelers navigate the complex differences between ecotourism, sustainable tourism, socially responsible tourism and the other myriad forms of traveling responsibly?

Ecotourism vs Sustainable Tourism

Industry consensus agrees ecotourism is more focused on ecological conservation and educating travelers on local environments and natural surroundings, whereas sustainable tourism focuses on travel that has minimal impact on the environment and local communities. Ecotourism is a form of tourism, or a category of vacation similar to beach, adventure, health, or cultural, while the concept of sustainability can be applied to all types of tourism.

As established by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 1990, ecotourism is “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Another widely cited definition of ecotourism is “purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment; taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem; producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people.”

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism practices around the world. GSTC and its global members of UN agencies, global travel companies, hotels, tourism boards and tour operators follow the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. The 23 criteria focus on best practices to sustain natural and cultural resources, maximize social and economic benefits for the local community, and minimize negative impacts to the environment.

Currently there is no internationally accredited body charged with overseeing the standards, monitoring and assessment, or certification for the ecotourism or sustainable tourism industries. Without an established standard it is easy to be confused by organizations that greenwash services and offerings as “environmentally friendly.” Others argue that ecotourism is an oxymoron, as travel implicitly entails activities that are detrimental to the environment. Planes, trains and automobiles use harmful fossil fuels that emit CO2, and forestland is often cleared for roads and railways.

Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism in Action

Photo Credit: Visit Costa Rica

Costa Rica was a pioneer in ecotourism and exemplifies how tourism can be a key pillar of economic development policy. Costa Rica is now the premiere destination for ecotourism, and in 2010 tourism contributed 5.5% of the country’s GDP. Jordan serves as another model of successfully integrating conservation and socio-economic development. Ecotourism generated $2.1 million in 2010, and Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature has received several global awards for its success in alleviating poverty and creating employment for local communities, in combination with integrating nature conservation.

Myriad sites offer options for tours and hotels that cater to a more environmentally friendly and sustainable type of traveling experience. The New York Times travel section allows viewers to search potential destinations using ecotourism as a criteria, and Condé Nast Traveler highlights Ecotourism and Sustainable Travel under Expert Travel Tips.

The Earthwatch Institute, organizes trips where travelers work alongside scientists and explorers on field expeditions and Sierra Club’s travel arm Sierra Club Outing allows environmentalist to learn something on vacation and inflict minimal harm on the surrounding environment.

At the industry level, hotels and resorts are taking on sustainability commitments that focus on recycling, decreasing water and energy usage, reducing greenhouse gas emissions,and environmentally friendly design. Many in the industry show a commitment to a holistic approach to sustainability which includes  the construction of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings, providing eco-friendly and organic food and wine selections, and rewarding guests who make “green choices.” Marriott, which boasts 2,800 hotels worldwide, offers guests hotel points or vouchers for the hotel restaurant should they choose to not having linens and towels washed daily.

Understanding the difference between sustainable tourism and ecotourism educates travelers on the significant impact their travel decisions have on the environment, economy and local communities they visit. Participating in sustainable tourism, or more specifically ecotourism vacations, means travelers can contribute to development and conservation efforts, while enjoying themselves on vacation.

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Industry of Tourism ” Sudan”

Sudan was gifted by all types of tourism factors such as long beaches, beautiful landscapes, good nature and archeological sites in different parts of the country.
Tourism has become an important industry nowadays and it contributes and brings a huge amount of money to increase the public revenue of countries. The problem that faces tourism in Sudan is the absence of a set plan, tourists’ needs in, how to attract them and types of laws that should be made?
Tourism will bring hard currency and open Sudan to the world.
The plan must address foreigners; this mean that we need to deal with different cultures, traditions and habits.
Archeologists have to convey ancient areas and to inform tourists about Sudan, its history, food and all interesting aspects related to tourism.
The Minister of Investment in Sudan has prepared an investment plan which targeted all states and each of them submitted a proposal about the type of tourism it will present. On behalf of the country, the ministry of investment will present to the market of tourism laws to regulate tourism investment.
The country needs to facilitate the mission of investors and encourage them through flexible legislations.

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It is not difficult to create a good atmosphere and offer tourism services based on international criteria. However, this dream has been translated into action by Al-Saraf Tourism Complex, a national company managed to penetrate the world of tourism through a Sudanese restaurant called Al-Housh. This complex was designed to receive ambassadors, international organizations and all foreigners from different parts of the world. The restaurant has an international staff, which is well trained to serve people of multi-cultures.

Those who stand behind the idea managed to create an attractive, breath taking Nile beach in Omdurman.
The Sudanese government appreciated the idea and promised to encourage national investors and to host guests to establish businesses in Sudan.

Climate Change Impact on Wildlife and Eco-tourism

It is clear that there are significant and continuing reduction to the global biological diversity and this is due to several reasons. The most important ones are the environment changes and the misuse of natural resources. Today most of environment changes are related to the climate factors. Sudan has several wildlife habitats distributed along the different ecological zones. Each habitat has its own adaptation wild species. Species are distributed in and outside the protected areas.

Many protected areas are protecting essential habitats and ecosystems of national wealth. The major impacts of climate change on wildlife habitats are changing animals’ range and distribution, habitats quality and the timing of migration. Climate change has potential effects on most migratory bird species and migration route. The climate change had especial impacts on marine mammals when the plankton and sea temperature are influenced by the change in the climate. Also the reptiles which have repetition migration may be faced by many hazards caused by climate change . It is reported that the climate change is expected to alter the distribution and abundance of many species.
Ecotourism means the use of natural resources for the benefits and enjoyment of human beings, but in a sustainable ways. The tourism industry in Sudan is till a new business. The diverse ecosystem, many protected areas, which are rich with fauna and flora, and the diverse traditional cultural folklore aspects could contribute positively to the development of ecotourism investment in Sudan. The sectors related to ecotourism industry are also affected by climate change. It is reported that the climate change is impacting most forms of nature based tourism experiences and destinations.
Several areas of research .including wildlife ecology, biology, food habits, behavior ,wildlife management ,wildlife habitat ,watershed management ,diseases, socio-economics studies ,etc;  had been conducted by the Wildlife Research Center and other research institutes and universities, in the different ecosystems and protected areas of Sudan.

Recently studies conducted in Al Sabaloga Game reserve concluded that: Indices of climate fluctuations (for 30 years period) and changes are observed, consequently the habitats were deteriorated, some wild animals disappeared and some are threatened with extinction.

Wildlife Research Priorities include: Inventory studies of the current status of habitats, factors of climate change and their impact on the different taxonomic groups, identification and assessment of possible adaptive responses and the use of remote sensing techniques in studies of climate change changes habitats and ecosystems. Wildlife management and proper adaptive programs should be one among the main priorities of the government strategies and policies towards the sustainability of these resources.

The paper ended by a number of recommendations, the main were:

1. Studies should focus on inventory, monitoring and assessing the available wildlife resources. Assessing the management problems and measures of risks in the region and formulate certain measures for adaptation and mitigation as related to CBD and Climate Change Convention.

2. More focus should be put on the important role of the Media.

3. The need for land use plans incorporating climate change mitigation and adaptation should incorporate sufficient coordination among the different natural resources institutions including Wildlife Administration.

4. Wildlife management and proper adaptive program should be one among the main priorities of the government strategies and policies towards the sustainability of these resources for the economic and recreational values.

5. Addressing climate change requires unprecedented global cooperation across borders. The international organizations are helping and supporting developing countries and contributing to a global solution by step up policy research .knowledge, and capacity building. Seeking the international support to develop strategies to mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity is a must.

6. Joint research programmes are needed to cover gaps in wildlife research topics linked to other disciplines. Wildlife research (especially in climate change issues) should be among the first priorities in government strategies that could be enhanced through capacity development of humans and institutes.

By Alula Berhe Kidani,

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