By JIMOH BABATUNDE
Aside from being one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world, tourism can actually help to create better understanding between people.This was the submission of the South African Tourism Minister, Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, at the opening of the country’s Tourism Marketing office in Lagos recently.
“Tourism is the fastest growing economic sector in South Africa, one of the fastest growing sectors in the world, but apart from its obvious economic benefit of job creation we must see tourism as one of the antidotes for mistrust, for conflicts and for war. Tourism will actually help to create better understanding between people.”
Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, accompanied by his Nigerian counterpart, Chief Edem Duke, said South Africa sees the special and longstanding relationship between his country and Nigeria as pivotal towards maintaining an Africa that is economically vibrant, “an Africa that grows through partnerships between nations.”
He added “Key to creating economic vibrancy and resilience is working together to develop industries that have the potentials to contribute meaningfully to our GDPs and job creation on the continent. Tourism is certainly one such industry.”
Speaking on reasons for opening the South African Tourism marketing office on the continent of Africa, Nigeria being the first to be opened, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk disclosed that it is a sign of their confidence in Africa tourism and especially in West Africa and the realization that there are huge potentials for tourism on the African continent.
The South African Tourism Minister disclosed that his country has experienced positive growth figures out of West Africa with a total of 73.282 Nigerian tourists visiting his country last year marking a 13.8 percent increase from 2011.
“At the end of June 2013, Nigerian tourists’ arrival had continued to grow on a strong trajectory with 15.9 percent during the first six months of 2013.”
He added that the tourists arrival into his country from Ghana for the same period of time show that the West Africa region are valuable to their markets.
Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkwyk said for tourism to play a major role in African economies issues of air transportation, visa and marketing need to be addressed by African leaders.
“On the issue of air transport, it is a challenge to all of us, we must convince our government to make it easy for our people to connect and to reach destinations, but we must also address our governments that we need to implement the Yamasouko decision to open up our skies in the Africa continent.“
He added, “Secondly, is the issue of visa. We will all want visa free world, but the reality is that for a long time to come there will still be visa process in place, but we must take a look at how we streamline the processes that make it possible for people to afford all the long queues.
While looking at the way of e-visa to address the visa issue, the South African Tourism Minister urged African countries to do a lot of tourism marketing within the continent, “so that the people can know what we have in our own continent and what people can experience. Like Edem Duke said, tourism cannot be a one way thing; it must be a two way thing to be successful.”