Africa's 1st Peace Through Tourism Conference celebrated in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa
Delegates from 22 countries tackled an ambitious agenda focusing on Africa and Building Bridges of Peace Through Sustainable Community Tourism Development
March 2002, Nelspruit, South Africa: A dramatic, torch-lighting ceremony accompanied by a parade of young people carrying the flags of Africa's 53 countries, heralded the opening of the First IIPT African Conference on Peace through Tourism, March 3-7 in Mpumalanga's capital, Nelpspruit, South Africa.
Themed "Building Bridges of Peace through Sustainable Community Tourism Development," the forum was presided over by the Hon. Valli Moosa, South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs, Lou D'Amore, president and founder of the International Institute for Peace through Tourism, Dr. Noel Brown, Chairperson of IIPT's Advisory Board, and Mira Berman, Executive Director of the Africa Travel Association. The two-year old Emnotweni Arena and Conference Center served as venue for the proceedings.
Nearly 300 attendees heard more than 30 presentations by tourism ministers, industrial and financial leaders, and discussion workshops centered on three main themes: education about other countries /cultures; solutions for poverty elimination/community outreach programs;and conflict resolution/regional; and developing a 21st-century agenda for "African Peace through Tourism."
Plenary sessions emphasized sustainable development including poverty elimination and community-based tourism; tourism and environment follow up to the Rio +10 conference on eco-tourism; healing the wounds of conflict through tourism; cultural heritage tourism; educating for culture of peace through tourism; access for the physically disabled; and promotion of the World Tourism Organization's code of ethics.
Concurrent workshops afforded participants the opportunity to exchange reports and updates on completed projects and works in progress, and to address positive and negative aspects/ challenges facing the development of tourism on the African continent.
Mira Berman, Executive Director of Africa Travel Association, an organizing partner and sponsor of the Conference, led two of the well-attended workshops, covering: Activities to Foster/Encourage Domestic, Intra-Africa Tourism (Promoting Intra-Africa Tourism).
Discussions touched on positive and negative tourism challenges and issues impacting the promotion on both domestic and intra-Africa tourism.
Activities to Foster/Encourage
Natural and wildlife but one of Africa's attractions. Other regionalization Initiatives include SADEC/RETOSA (Southern Africa Development Economic Community/Regional Tourism of South Africa), currently developing COMESA, a cross-country passport between eastern and southern Africa, including South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia; a 20-country, common market for East and Central Africa; the East African Tourism Commission's Total Passport, making it easier for citizens to travel throughout the region comprising Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda), and renewal of its West African counterpart, ECOWAS (a 10-country, common market for the West African countries), linking Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinee, Gambia and Senegal.
Several negative issues addressed were war and conflict (representatives from Rwanda and Angola provided examples) leading to nearly insurmountable domestic barriers to movement: lack of disposable income for leisure travel; prejudice born of suspicion, leading to xenophobia and its resulting psychic barriers. The role of the media to this end must also be recognized and addressed for its ability to discourage tourism continent-wide by negative reporting from or about individual countries. More on-site, journalist familiarization trips are necessary for expanded, accurate information sharing.
More tangible delays are visible via transportation availability and the dissemination of travel information when there are delays and/or cancellations of flights (an all-too-often occurrence); prohibitive visa requirements and costs and possible solutions to expedite intra-African travel (ability to obtain visas upon arrival; excessively high international/local airport taxes and fees; need for better infrastructure and standardization/pricing structures of accommodations.
Among the major stumbling blocks to smooth tourist accessibility has been high airfares and insufficient reliable national and intra-regional airlines flying to source markets. According to Tewodros Tamrat, Director/Corporate & Industry Affairs of the Nairobi-based African Airlines Association, Africa's 4.5% average air traffic growth rate is expected to continue over next 15 years. Tamrat warned, "Our 38 member carriers are at risk because many economies are weak, costs are very high, and there are still too many travel restrictions. We are at a crossroads and need to take these measures to improve our goal is not necessarily privatization, but to be run on sound, profit-making business principles. Establishing stable peace and sustainability are a major step."
Tools of the Trade
Additionally, bilateral agreements and memos of understanding between countries can foster more effective intra-country marketing and promotion of destinations/attractions. Regional target marketing could be further enhanced by the development of a country-to-country "Uni-visa," allowing for easy country-to-country air connections among the 38 national carriers. Good news from Mr. Tamrat, is that approximately two dozen West and Central African nations have agreed to liberalize air transport among them. To be signed this August, the pact permits participating nations' airlines to carry passengers between any participating state, allows carriers to set fares without prior government approvals, and ends limits on capacity or frequencies of service among the states. Participants can phase in certain provisions for up to two years.
Another promising start is promotion of "Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa, " recently introduced as the first effort to globally market a destination as a "brand, " to promote and support tourism activities of disadvantaged communities, and establish partnerships locally and internationally to establish and monitor a trademark.
Next steps to be implemented to this lofty and achievable goal: More involvement and sharing of information by the media; promoting intra- as well as inter-Africa tourism; establishing the first African chapter of IIPT in Mpumalanga; founding more ATA chapters (two new chapters were launched following the conference &endash; in Gauteng and West Cape); continuing with networking and linkages with cross-border tourism programs and trans-border national parks; developing an "alliance of tourism," using the Bermuda Heritage Trail model; encouraging more strategic alliances between private/public sector hotels, transportation, education (training of future industry leaders) and financial bodies; and closer communication between Africa's Ministers for Transportation, Finance, Immigration and Tourism.
Africa as a tourism product has both tremendous potential and impossible-to-ignore challenges. The First African Conference on Peace through Tourism hopes to be a catalyst for change, or, as Ms. Berman said, "Another bridge being built between developed and undeveloped countries &endash; the have and have-not peoples of the world. While these bridges span enormous physical, mental and cultural gaps, taking years, even decades to construct, many victories of a smaller, less spectacular nature are taking place on a daily basis. These win-win situations might be compared to the "opening of doors, " &endash; whether they be the door to a mud hut, a Sultan's palace, or even the White House. All are important in the final analysis, like chalk marks on the wall of time This first African conference is opening many doors."
The conference, organized by IIPT (International Institute for Peace through Tourism) in collaboration with Africa Travel Association (ATA) and the Mpumalanga Tourism Authority (MTA), cosponsored by the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Mpumalanga's Department of Finance & Economic Affairs, follows the success of the first three IIPT Global Conferences on Peace Through Tourism, as well as the First Global Summit on Peace Through Tourism in Amman in 2000. It is the first of a series of regional conferences and symposia leading up to the Second Global Summit taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, October 14-17, 2002.
International Institute for Peace