The World Tourism Organisation says its African member states will be working together to establish a new narrative for tourism – Brand Africa – across the continent, to better realise tourism’s potential to drive recovery.

With tourism recognised as an essential pillar of sustainable and inclusive development for the continent, UNWTO welcomed delegates to the first regional conference on strengthening Brand Africa.

The conference featured the participation of the political leadership of host country Namibia, alongside public and private sector leaders from across the continent.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili welcomed the common determination to rethink as well as restart tourism: “African destinations must take the lead in celebrating and promoting the continent’s vibrant culture, youthful energy and entrepreneur spirit, and its rich gastronomy.”

On the back of a series of workshops and a Ministerial Think Tank, UNWTO’s African member states unanimously endorsed the Windhoek Pledge on advocating Brand Africa. Under the terms of the Windhoek Pledge, members will engage both public and private sector stakeholders as well as local communities to build a new, inspiring narrative for tourism across the continent. They will identify positive, human-centred stories, and through strengthened partnerships with the media, showcase them to the world, reaching new and diverse tourism source markets.

Over the coming weeks, UNWTO says it will be working with all signatories to create a common roadmap towards establishing Brand Africa. This will include establishing common values and goals and identifying funding needs and opportunities as well as providing branding toolkits for destinations, including guidelines and recommendations and training and capacity building in market intelligence, digital marketing and data management.

Alongside the conference, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili held high-level talks on the restart of tourism with President of Namibia Hage Geingob, as well as with the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and with the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga.

Elcia Grandcourt, UNWTO’s Regional Director for Africa, said: “Looking ahead, though challenges remain, I am optimistic about the long-term prospects of our region. The current vaccine programmes and the travel protocols being implemented and enhanced by local authorities are testimony to stakeholders’ engagement to position Africa as a safe destination. UNWTO will continue throughout the year to support and work with member states and the private sector partners of the region to rebuild a resilient tourism sector and to prepare to welcome tourists again.”

In a separate development, UNWTO has partnered with Google to help destinations in Africa gain expert insights into data management and digital marketing.

At a special capacity building event, researchers and marketing professionals from 20 African NTOs benefitted from two days of training on themes designed to help them attract visitors and better manage their tourism sectors. As well as insights into data collection, analysis and management, the regional course also focused on digital marketing, with a particular emphasis on how digital content and storytelling can be powerful tools for restarting tourism and supporting recovery in the wake of the pandemic.

To put theory into practice, participants were able to learn more about UNWTO’s tools to provide market insights and to support recovery, including the UNWTO Recovery Tracker and the dashboards. Alongside this, the NTOs were also shown how Google’s Insights Tools can help guide sustainable recovery.

“The UNWTO Agenda for Africa aims to harness the power of tourism to drive sustainable development across Africa,” said Mr Pololikashvili “By partnering with Google, we are ensuring our member states are able to use data insights and digital marketing to recover from the current crisis, restart their tourism sectors and grow back smarter and better.”

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