By Omonu Nelson
While some Tourist sites are private sector driven, most are deliberate moves by government agencies to boost in-flow of Travels and Tourists. At first, government intervention is needed to guarantee security, credit facility, tax waivers and other incentives to encourage investors in the Tourism industry. Many countries around the world, including Africa’s Egypt, Kenya etc., rely heavily on accruals from Tourism to finance their government.
The West African sub-region can take deliberate steps to up its share of bounties from global Tourism.
During the recent ECOWAS Parliament delocalised meeting in Monrovia, the team visited Kpatawee Water Falls in Bong County, about two and half hours drive from Monrovia. Officially, opened to Tourists in January, 2021, Ms Josephine, the Manager and Tour Guide confirmed that patronage has been so wonderful.
In her word, “Everything here is sourced locally, our foods are sourced locally, we are trying to encourage local content. The beds Tourists use for camping is sourced locally.
“We charge Tourists forty (40) US dollars per night with complimentary breakfast. We don’t charge children, families are free to come with their young children because they don’t have to pay a dime.
“We attract about 300 Tourists every week. Since we started in January, visits have been increasing steadily.”
Kpatawee is witnessing steady rise in Tourists visit because of favourable security climate. Like Josephine’s Kpatawee, ECOWAS can create an enabling environment to increase its share of the $2.9 billion global Travels and Tourism contribution to the sub-regional GDP.
The 2019 global Travel and Tourism’s direct contribution to GDP was approximately 2.9 trillion United States dollars. Travel and Tourism remains one of the key growth drivers of Africa’s economy, contributing 8.5% of the GDP in 2018; equivalent to $194.2 billion, according to reports by Jumia hospitality.
Perhaps, there is no better time than now, for the West African sub region to put infrastructures in place to boost its tourism. The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) is expected to further boost Tourism
However, it remains a long walk for the sub-region to realise its full Tourism potentials without first, addressing issues of poor quality services, inadequate infrastructure, security concerns.
The ECOWAS will have to redouble its efforts at curtailing the issue of insecurity, which is an anti-thesis to the growth of tourism. Good infrastructures is another critical factor in reaping maximally from Tourism. Tourist locations must be accessible by quality roads, rails and unhindered or smooth air travels.
Comparatively, Tourism receipts are higher as a percentage of GDP in eastern and southern Africa (4.5% and 3% respectively) than in West Africa (2.1%).
The majority of visitors from Europe and the US flock to attractions in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia.
Kenya is even making a sustained attempt to grab a greater share of the intra-African tourism market as the Kenyan Tourism board opens talks with Nigerian and Sierra Leonean industry representatives in a bid to encourage arrivals.
Rich In Attraction;
From The Gambia’s sandy Kotu Beach to Mali’s Bandiagara Cliff Villages and Ghana’s slave fortresses, with the right planning and investment the West African Tourist sector could rake in millions more in foreign exchange earnings and create much-needed employment opportunities for the teeming youth population.
Air transport is severely limited among countries in the region, with poor flight connections turning simple trips into circuitous journeys.
In addition, connectivity has been made more difficult by regulatory hurdles – such as restrictive policies that limit air traffic rights – and the closure of regional national carriers, including Nigeria Airways and Ghana Airways.
Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria are grappling with Islamist and rebel insurgencies, prompting negative international headlines and travel warnings from wealthy nations.
Terrorist attacks in Mali saw the number of arrivals from Europe fall from 71,000 in 2014 to 36,000 in 2015.
A report by the London-headquartered World Travel and Tourism Council found that tourist arrivals in Sierra Leone dropped by 50% from 2013 to 2014.
Despite these challenges, West African nations still have a chance to grab a larger share of international tourism receipts.
But biddings for prime tourist land for hotel and leisure developments are too often uncompetitive and opaque, driving away leading international hotel groups.
Governments must also boost marketing spend and introduce visa reforms to encourage tourists.
The World Tourism Organisation predicts that the number of arrivals in Africa will more than double to 134m by 2030, but if West African nations are to grab their share, policymakers and industry representatives need to turn their plans into reality through concerted reforms.
Prioritisation of improved visa facilitation in major tourism countries in West Africa remains a major boost to both the tourism and aviation industries. For instance, Ethiopia’s visa relaxation policies combined with improved connectivity as a regional transport hub placed the country as Africa’s fastest growing travel country, growing by 48.6% in 2018 to be worth $7.4 billion.
Borrowing from the success story of countries like Egypt, that have leveraged heavily on its huge Tourist attractions to fund one of Africa most buoyant economy, the West Africa, home of abundant but largely untapped Tourism potentials can achieve the same feats, if not more, by deliberate policy, anchored on ECOWAS platforms.