Balala urges African states to promote domestic tourism for industry to recovery from COVID-19 effects

Balala urges African states to promote domestic tourism for industry to recovery from COVID-19 effects
A pristine beach in Diani. PHOTO | CNN

African states have been urged to develop a paradigm shift and not wait for international visitors for the industry to thrive.

In a statement on Saturday, Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala said Africa must unite and form a federation to promote tourism within the continent.

“If we can have just 300-400million people travelling within the continent we can surely boost each other’s jobs and generate revenue without being dependent on international tourists,” he said in a statement.

According to the CS, the tourism industry in Kenya is predicting losses in the billions owing to the disruption from the coronavirus pandemic: several hotels and hospitality establishments have since closed.

He said recovery from the pandemic will take time and called on industry stakeholders to be patient but begin to change their perception on domestic tourism by offering the right products.

The Tourism CS opined that for the next two years, for Kenya to be more self-reliant; marketing strategies will have to be realigned, products redesigned and destinations made more affordable and interactive.

Balala reiterated that investors will need to boost the domestic and regional markets before looking further.

“Africa has a population of about 1.2billion people but only receives 62million tourists which is disappointing. COVID-19 can be an opportunity to act now and expand further to create more jobs and be more self-reliant. This should also be the time to take care of the communities around us and be sensitive to the enviroment,” he said.

He further cited Spain’s tourism industry where 82million visitors are reportedly domestic or from neighboring countries.

Spain has a population of 46million, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE).

CS Balala added that many international markets initially started by prioritising domestic tourism before expanding to visitors from outside their regions.

He further called on African states to encourage free movement between countries without visa restrictions and travel bureaucracy.

“In Europe, most people can move around in about 27 countries with neither a visa nor border posts. This is the way to go for Africa. This will take time to implement, but if we start now, in 5 years we will be resilient from any shocks whatsoever, even travel advisories imposed by western countries,” Balala said.

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