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Sustainable tourism – A tool for development and poverty eradication


Sustainable tourism – A tool for development and poverty eradication

Sustainable tourism – A tool for development and poverty eradication
Photo credit: IOL | Waldo Swiegers

Today, tourism generates 10% of the world’s GDP, one in every 10 jobs, and 30% of world trade in services. It is key to many countries’ economies and livelihoods.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, underscoring its power to help eradicate poverty.

Tourism is also singled out in three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – part of an ambitious global plan adopted by the international community in 2015 that is setting the tone for development through to 2030. Specifically, tourism is tied to the goals on sustainable economic growth and decent employment, sustainable production and consumption, as well as the conservation and sustainable use of oceans.

The issue of how to link tourism and sustainable development is in focus this week at the 41st Annual World Tourism Summit. Hosted by Rwanda, one of East Africa’s premier tourism destinations, the international meeting runs from Monday to Thursday at the Kigali Conference Centre.

Organised by the Corporate Council on Africa and Africa Travel Association in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board, the summit brings together African leaders, international investors and travel professionals from across the world to explore how tourism can spur economic growth and job creation across the continent.

The high-level conference will focus on innovative business models, new technologies and strategic partnerships in Africa and globally. It will also provide a platform to network and explore new tourism markets and products, including the promotion and preservation of Africa’s rich cultural heritage and wildlife.

“This is a great opportunity to present and review tourism on the continent. The sector’s growth presents enormous economic opportunities that spread throughout societies,” said UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi.

“Africa’s tourism industry continues to flourish and supports more than 21 million jobs and, for the developing countries, tourism is a enormous tool for sustainable development,” added Dr. Kituyi.

UNCTAD’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2017: Tourism for Transformative and Inclusive Growth, examined the role that tourism can play in Africa’s development process. The report, released last month, concluded that tourism can be an engine for inclusive growth and a complement to development strategies aimed at fostering economic diversification and structural transformation within an appropriate policy context.

African tourists emerge as powerhouse for tourism on the continent, says UNCTAD report

“Tourism’s impact on the economic and social development of African countries can be huge. We must manage tourism properly in order to enjoy its fruits without leaving anyone behind,” said Dr. Kituyi. “To succeed, we must put in place adequate policies, forge public-private partnerships, ensure free movement as well as peace and security”.

Rwanda remains one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, second only to Southeast Asia, and recorded tourism revenue of more than US$400 million in 2016, up from US$370 million in 2015.

“Sustainable tourism must ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing benefits that are distributed fairly among all stakeholders,” said Dr. Kituyi

On the sidelines of the summit, organisers in partnership with Facebook and Dignify Africa will be delivering training sessions to small and medium enterprises on how to leverage digital tools to grow their businesses.

Address by President Paul Kagame at the 41st World Tourism Conference

I would like to thank the Corporate Council on Africa, through the Africa Travel Association, together with the Rwanda Development Board, for organising this 41st World Tourism Conference.

Rwanda, like other countries on our continent, is keen to convert our favourable demographics into economic growth and prosperity.

The services sector, in particular tourism, provides some of the best employment opportunities for our citizens, and attractive careers for young people.

Already, this sector is Rwanda’s biggest foreign exchange earner, Clare gave the figures, but we can and need to do better. Harnessing the full potential of the tourism industry will require continued focus and investment on several fronts.

First, the efforts we are making in strengthening good governance and mobilising our population, enables us to properly manage both the environment that supports tourist attractions, as well as the revenue they generate.

Rwandans, especially those living around national parks and other attractions, have become indispensable to conservation.

This is because they understand the value of our natural resources, and benefit directly from higher incomes and community projects financed by park revenues.

The responsibility of government, and other players in the industry, is to continuously provide quality education and training, so that Rwandans can fully participate as professionals in tourism and associated sectors.

Second, we are investing heavily in services and infrastructure to support the development of the sector.

Our national carrier RwandAir continues to expand to destinations within Africa and beyond, and will soon have a more modern, efficient base when the new airport in Bugesera is completed.

We are also working to improve the road network and attract investments in conference and hotel facilities, such as this convention centre we are in today.

Third, we must take full advantage of new technology, particularly innovative digital platforms, to attract more visitors, offer new experiences, and provide better services.

I am happy to learn that several technology companies are represented here today. We look forward to partnering with you to take the industry to the next level.

As we work with the private sector to develop the tourism industry in Rwanda, we also want to strengthen collaboration within our region and across the continent.

The single tourist visa and passport-free travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, is already a reality. So is visa on arrival in Rwanda for all African nationals. We heard your concerns, Dr Kituyi, and here in Rwanda we have no such problems.

But we need even more cooperation on the continent, in order to increase the numbers of visitors, as well as facilitate trade and investment. Implementing existing agreements on open skies, and easing visa restrictions, are steps in the right direction.

I trust that you will discuss these and other pertinent issues during this conference. We look forward to working with you on solutions to advance tourism in Africa and beyond.

Source: Paul Kagame


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