Africa's Future is in the Air

By Mira Berman

(condensed from the original)

ATA, which represents the hopes, desires, plans and potential of Africa's travel - tourism industry was born in 1975 and raised under the most trying political, social and financial conditions. Today's ATA continues to seek new markets, win new friends and open new doors. So much has happened in the past decades, it's hard to fathom - but in Africa, recent years have signaled remarkable changes. Ranking high are new direct routes and realistic fares from New York and other U.S. gateways.

In evaluating Africa's transportation scene, ATA members can be considered among the most astute judges of all. Since our launch in 1976 at a Congress in Nairobi, Kenya, ATA members have flown on every airline serving the continent and its offshore islands, and have boarded regional carriers that crisscross, this vast expanse of geography, linking dozens of emerging cities and towns. Some have gone by train, or enjoyed waterborne adventures along the coastline of two oceans, the majestic Mediterranean, or on Africa's historic canals, lakes and rivers.

Those on our ATA Board of Directors have been in the thick of the action, some having been instrumental in generating positive change in their own countries. Who are these people? African Tourism Ministers and international airline executives, to whom safe skies, better gateway access, improved airports and roads are their lifeblood. On the same slate, you'll find executives of international hotel chains, African and North American tour operators, travel agency owners and seasoned professionals, each with a stake in Africa's future via tourism, and the trade benefits it creates.

People in the airline industry are dependent upon maps of every type and description. Not only do pilots and ground crews rely on detailed maps of routes, geography and terrain, they need accurate maps of upper air currents, cloud cover and meteorological phenomena. Likewise when planning long-haul travel to African destinations from the USA or Canada; when staging congresses and events, or preparing complex tour itineraries, members of ATA need to create their own business guidelines. Here is our simple watchword ... MAPS:

M ... for Marketing and Merchandising
A ... for Airlines and Airports
P ... for Pricing and Packaging
S ... for Safety and Security

Marketing as a Key Factor
Aside from education, ATA's specialty for twenty-seven years has been "event" marketing - moving great numbers of people from point (a) America, to point (b) Africa. As we gain experience, add momentum and become more expert at it, our Marketing Map has led to spin-offs in at least six areas:

Ecotourism Market: Ecotourism is a relative newcomer to the marketing scene, having come into its own in recent years, sparking a boom in related fields of Educational, Cultural, Archeological, Agricultural and Adventure Travel. No more sun, sand and surf for the masses. ATA was among the first to recognize these drastic changes and their special application to Africa. Let's face it, if God ever created a continent that was ready-made for Ecotourism and Adventure Travel -- this is it. Seizing the moment, ATA staged its first Ecotourism Symposium in 1992, with Dakar, Senegal as the venue. Our most recent event in Yaounde, Cameroon happened less than two months after the Sept 11 disaster, yet we had a successful turnout in that great central African country. This December, we celebrate ATA's Sixth Ecotourism Symposium in Morocco. And on the "Road to Morocco," ATA will be front and center at several key events marking the International Year of Ecotourism. We've already participated at events in Vancouver and Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. On the ATA agenda are our 27th Congress in Conakry, Guinea; Indaba at Durban; the African Diaspora Conference in Bermuda, the World Ecotourism Summit in Quebec and the Johannesburg Earth Summit. Each is an opportunity to market the Best of Africa through ATA.



African American Market: African Americans have been flying to Africa in droves thanks to ATA - and what a huge potential market that represents. Statistics show that African Americans are more active, affluent and influential in our society than ever before, and it's a continuous, upward spiral. On ATA's doorstep is an immense market of over 30 million consumers, spelling opportunity for agencies, operators and airlines alike. What's more, ATA has become the dominant force in the African American travel trade, as you will see should you attend any of our events.

Caribbean - African Diaspora Market: We expect some solid results from the recent Pan African-Caribbean Conference on Air Transportation 2002, in Atlanta. Presented in cooperation with the U.S Department of Transportation it included Government Ministers and Officials, National and International Airlines, Airport Authorities, Regulatory Organizations, Airport Management Companies, Service Providers and Suppliers, Financial and Legal Consultants (to Airlines and Airports), Travel Agents, Tour Operators, Air Cargo, Freight Forwarders and Shippers. Its goal? To increase air carrier service to and between Pan African nations - primarily Africa and the Caribbean, serving as a catalyst for trade development via the air transportation industry.

This year marks another proud ATA milestone. The Slave Route from Africa westward touched many shores, and finally these historical links are becoming part of the marketing scene. This May's African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference in Bermuda and a special Airline Industry Conference are two shining examples.

Taking a lead from Bermuda's President Jennifer Smith, ATA is interacting with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Air Carriers and Tourism Offices, opening up new routes, and tour packaging opportunities. This cross border tourism initiative will build long-term relationships between Bermuda, the Caribbean, the African nations and North America. The African Diaspora Heritage Trail is a unified cross-border, cultural tourism initiative designed to educate visitors, enhance the economic viability of African Diaspora countries and conserve the essence of African descent culture and history. This will spark numerous opportunities for shared projects and promotions, such as island-hopping tours from the USA to Africa via the Caribbean. The opportunities are endless. What a winning combination.

Business and Investment Travel: "Where tourism goes, commerce flows .." is a line that's music to our ears. Every trip to Africa sheds new light on the unlimited number of business opportunities and potential partnerships spring up like fresh buds in the forest. We do our best to facilitate these unions of ideas and capital. We've launched a magazine and 500-page web site to help encourage facilitate this marriage between Africans and the world beyond.

Seniors Market: Last year, our Congress in Cape Town was shared with a large contingent from SATH, who are among the most upbeat delegates I have ever had the pleasure of serving. This worthy organization, whose mandate is accessible travel and hospitality services for the handicapped and seniors - represents an enormous market in the USA and around the world. They have the power to elect, influence and bring down governments, and their clout in the travel industry has leapt forward considerably since we started the movement shortly after the birth of ATA.

One is never to old to discover Africa ... and in our opinion, not only do most Africans respect and revere people of advanced age for their wisdom and guidance, but Africa becomes a "state-of-mind, " a place where one can feel forever young. The Africa experience is like a tonic to many of us, our personal Fountain of Youth. Ask 92 year-old Elyse Whyte of Harlem, who has attended every ATA international congress since 1976.

The Asian Market: ATA's Canadian chapter in Vancouver has been exploring travel and tours to Africa via the Asia Pacific route, involving North American and Asian carriers, such a Cathay Pacific, Malaysian Air and others. They see a real opportunity for stopover tours in exotic Pacific and Asian gateways, plus business events and trade missions to and from Africa.

It goes without saying that the Asian Market brings much needed investment and a potential visitor bonanza, that ATA is well aware of the opportunities. Asia and Asia Pacific is on our marketing map. Signals are already apparent from our web site, which is generating thousands of hits daily from around the world. Thanks to research by Webtrends we can track the origin of these contacts and Asia ranks high.

Airlines as Engines of Prosperity: In a later article, we will provide a "State-of-the -Industry" report concerning Airlines serving the continent of Africa and its offshore islands. At one time or another, we've dealt with all of them, and are sad to see the demise of several old friends who served the industry so well. However, like a Phoenix, new alliances and operations arise to take their place, like SN Brussels which is launching flights from the USA as we speak. Our own tour operator members are accurate barometers of the situation. According to ATA Treasurer Sharifa Burnett, owner of Alken Tours of New York, "Not only did the September 11th disaster seriously affect travel to Africa, the demise of Air Afrique dealt a serious blow to West Africa trade, which was flourishing thanks to a solid marketing program targeting African Americans. Price specials for Black History Month, the Slave Route and other seasonal promotions attracted leading educators, university students and others keenly interested in African culture and heritage.

Governments must act: The big attraction was the opportunity to schedule tours via Dakar, Senegal, to a variety of gateways such as Abidjan, Bamako, Cotonou, Lome and others." Sharifa Burnett mentioned that several new kids on the block are starting to fill the gap with charter flights. Afrinet of the USA now flies to several West African gateways; Amana Air Travel, has return flights from New York via South America to West Africa for around $1,000. When asked what should happen, Sharifa Burnett suggested a meeting of all West African government ministers and leaders is imminent. Its purpose? -- to seek solutions not only to the air transportation dilemma, but also to ease ground restrictions, allowing motor coach tours to pass more freely across national borders. ATA is an ideal catalyst to facilitate such a conference &endash; just as we are doing this year to spur interest in travel to Africa via the Caribbean and the African Diaspora Heritage Trail.

In its state-of-the-art report, ATA will seek and present the latest news and views from South Africa Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, the National airlines of Kenya, Ghana, Gabon, Nigeria, Seychelles, Mauritius, Namibia, Guinea, Tanzania and others, plus numerous small regional carriers.

Airports as Hubs of Commerce: The new developments at many of Africa's Airports - Bole International in Addis Ababa, Kruger Mpumalanga International in South Africa, Kilimanjaro International in Tanzania, and many others from Cairo to the Cape, makes us proud. Yet, do airports rate enough attention overall?

"A question that begs to be asked, is this; " says aviation journalist Ed Anderson, " Do business communities and the population at large, recognize and appreciate the significance of airports? Furthermore, is there an acceptance of their importance and positive impact on the daily lives of people, combined with the contributions those airports make to existing business connections and the generation of new business opportunities? One would like to think so. But, on the other hand, continuing negatives spun by questionable media coverage, brought on, sometimes, by well intended but misguided "NIMBY's" (not in my back yard) and political types invariably affect the positives which the network of land based airports and water based facilities can indeed generate. The potentials for employment and prosperity are tremendous and we all should be open to the rewards and benefits of progress initiated by airports." So, if you have to pay an airport tax - you know it's being put to a good purpose, one of which is increased security.

Packaging and Pricing: Packaging is where connections and creativity come to the fore. As I mentioned, ATA is active in "event "marketing and that means developing skills at astute packaging of hotels, airfares, transportation and sundry other items. Our association and member tour operators have enjoyed a number of bargains packages in the past, targeting Black History Month, and a variety of pre and post congress and symposia tours to countries adjacent to that of the event host.

In planning an event, we are able to arrange travel and tour packages with an ever growing list of air carriers, which are selected for a variety of reasons, mainly geographic. Since most ATA members are either travel agents or tour operators with agendas of their own and a wide following of clients from the USA and various parts of Africa, no one airline will cover all their needs. A main reason is that they book side trips, study tours, pre and post event activities, etc. built around the congress date. This year at least 3 key events in Africa, Canada and the Caribbean occur in the weeks following our congress - and each involves different airlines.

Safety and Security: I mentioned that many of us flew to Cameroon in Central Africa shortly after September 11th and not only did we enjoy a great flight on Cameroon Airlines from Paris, but felt secure the entire time, with some of our members staying up to a month in the country. Our ATA website has links to reliable safety sources, including the World Tourism Organization, so our members do not have to rely on a very biased, opinionated mass media.

That brings us to - Peace through Tourism - the long-range answer - to the world's biggest problem, and again one where ATA has taken the lead. We just concluded Africa's first IIPT Peace through Tourism Conference, where I planted a seedling at God's Window, one of the world's first Peace Forest near Kruger Park. ATA President, Hon. Zakia Hamdani Meghji, Minister of Tourism for The United Republic of Tanzania, is proud of the work our association is doing, summing it up as follows:

" Without peace there can be no tourism. Recognizing this, the Africa Travel Association (ATA) has been in the forefront as a founding member of the IIPT COALITION OF PARTNERS and has provided IIPT with a showcase at its annual congresses and ecotourism symposia. Our participation as an organizer of this historic conference demonstrates ATA's strong commitment to fostering peace through community-based and sustainable tourism on the African Continent."

So with MAPS in hand, we at ATA move ahead with cautious optimism. However, we don't march alone. The force that's with us includes powerful, influential organizations with which we share ideas, and quite often, the podium.

Strategic Alliances include the following:

• The Francophone Community worldwide. Since 30 African countries are French speaking, our magazine and web site now reflect this reality by publishing stories and items in both English and French. As they say, "Vive le Difference."


ATA is an associate member of USTOA - United States Tour Operators Association - decision makers of the highest order.

• ATA is an affiliate member of WTO - the World Tourism Organization with whom we co-host events.

• ATA a member of GATTO - Global Alliance of Travel and Tourism Organizations

• ATA is an allied member of ASTA - American Society of Travel Agents

• ATA is an industry partner of ARTA - Association of Retail Travel Agents

• ATA is an industry partner in Green Globe

• ATA is a founding member of IIPT Coalition of Partners, International Institute for Peace through Tourism

• ATA is a member of TIES - The International Ecotourism Society

• ATA is a founding member of RETOSA - Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa

• ATA is a partner of SATH - Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality

As a healthy 27 -year old organization, we welcome all of the challenge, with a hope that at some period in our lifetime, we can without fear or prejudice, invite our members and their clients to visit all 53 countries on the African continent and its surrounding Islands. Remember the watchword: M-A-P-S. The force is with us. It's with our partners in tourism. May it be with you as well.


Pan African-Caribbean Conference

Presented in Cooperation with the
U.S Department of Transportation

What: Pan African-Caribbean Conference based in Atlanta

Why: Purpose is "To increase air carrier service to and between Pan African nations (Africa and the Caribbean"

Benefit: A sustained and successful attempt to increase air service to and between Pan African nations will sere as a catalyst for trade development in those region, benefiting not only Africa and the Caribbean, but their trading partners and in particular, the air transportation industry

Where: Westin Atlanta Airport, Atlanta, GA

Read about the Caribbean in our (allied) web site
Air Highways of the World Magazine.


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