Daily Archives: July 13, 2016

Ghana Must Do More To Attract Regional Traffic – Herbert

Herbert Acquaye is the President, Ghana Hotels Associations [GHA], an hotelier per excellent. In this interview with African Travel Times Magazine Publisher/Editor, Lucky Onoriode George in Lome, Togo during just concluded Africa Hotel Investment Forum [AHIF] held from June 21-22, 2016. He explains why Ghana must do more to attract regional traffic to fill the ever growing hospitality sector.

Across Africa, there are regional or geopolitical hotel and tourism associations, why is West Africa different?

It’s good that you are mentioning this. In Ghana we have what we call Ghana Tourism Federation [GTF], an umbrella body for all tourism trade associations in the country. Though the federation has been in existence for almost 15 years, it only became very active in the last two years.

Since 2014, the federation started organising programmes and also began serious interactions with government and relevant agencies. The aforementioned said, it is our hope that every member nation of Economic Community of West Africa States [ECOWAS] are able to establish their own tourism federation, so that the national body in these countries can link up to eventually form a regional body.

Though, the Gambian federation recently invited us for discussion in line with what you have raised; putting place a West Africa tourism federation and I can see it coming soon.

I was privileged to be part of ECOWAS Hotels, Motels, Inns and Tourist Guide Elaboration Task Force to review the above mentioned in 2010, of which sums of money from the Spanish Government Fund and European Commission has not been implemented till date, what should be the role of ECOWAS?

Without doubt, ECOWAS has a role to play. Most recently, I was invited to a technical meeting where information collated from various member nations on standards among others was discussed.

Over the years, Ghana has made tremendous progress in the tourism sector, especially, the hospitality subsector, what would you say are major obstacles facing your members?

It is true that we have a vibrant hospitality subsector because of it is a very important component of the tourism industry in any country based on the huge investment nature. In spite of the growth of the sector in Ghana and most parts of West Africa, tourism growth generally is in decline if you followed the presentations that were made at this event.

The big challenge facing us is, how do we grow the sector? In my country, our government insisted that it would handle marketing and promotion of Ghana as a destination, and that the private sector should not worry itself in that regards. Sadly, governments across West Africa, including Ghana have only paid lip service to tourism issues; because no conscious efforts have been made to improve regional intra-tourism activities.

What we have seen government officials do all the times, is going to America and Europe and sometimes Asia to do road shows, as well as participating in travel fairs and exhibitions, neglecting Africa with one of the fastest growing middle-class that can help improve arrivals within Africa.

Nigeria alone has the capacity to galvanise tourism activities in Ghana, just as Ghana can have same effect on Togo and Benin, yet nothing is been done in this regard.

Again, there are no conscious efforts to promote our products among ourselves in the sub-region. In today’s world, no country is relying solely on foreign market, especially in this era of insecurity and incessant travel warning that follows; we need to do much more than we are currently doing.

PANAFEST was a major event in Ghana many years ago, what is the situation with now?

PANAFEST can still give to Ghana what it used to give, but it’s currently under promoted and so the emancipation PANAFEST just pass-by yearly without much involvement or contribution from the private sector.
Without mincing words, not working as a team has rubbed the sector many pre-event and post-event activities that would have added value to the economy. It is also the failure of those in charge of not doing enough to carry our communities and the sub-region along, that is even more worrisome to people like me.

What can ECOWAS do to ensure that movement of people across the regional corridor is really free, because the level of extortion and harassment by various Immigrations and Gendarmes is unprecedented?

A lot can be done. It’s really sad and unfortunate. I think what we need to do as travel and tourism industry, is advocacy within our countries to put pressure on our governments to rain in these rogue immigration and security officials in all our borders.

Recently, there was a discussion over the actions and altitude of the Police and Gendarme. With a regional tourism federation in place, we can attend ECOWAS meetings with the view to influencing change of policy among others.

What do you think of this event [Africa Hotel Investment Forum] we are attending here in Lome, Togo?

The first benefit is that the programme has been able to bring regional operators together. Though, I would have been more comfortable, if the event is a little more successful. However, it has generated lots of discussions and we have learnt so much from the various presentations.

Figures and statistics that were presented show what we are doing well and areas that we need to improve on.

It was also nice to see people from outside Africa here for the very first time, to see and learn of the several opportunities that abound.

Above all, the issues discussed here will also help solved some problems identified going forward.

Synagogue Church And Tourism Economy Of Lagos

Over the years, there has been subtle argument as to what the Synagogue Church of Nations [SCOAN] based in Ikotun area of Lagos State contributes to the state economy.

Just like the National Bureau of Statistics [NBS], the Lagos State Statistics office too has not been able to provide any information as to the number of visitors or pilgrims that visit Lagos State and end up at the Synagogue Church.

As absurd as that may sound, there are however, independent survey and other sources that provide stratified information for writers, students and industry practitioners.

African Travel Times Magazine recent discussions with relevant Lagos State tourism officials revealed deep lack of knowledge of how tourism arrivals are trapped, spending calculated and who qualified to be called a tourist are a new language in our administrative lexicon .

Like the National Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria [NBS] was accused by this same publication of doing much harm to the tourism industry, by undermining the contribution of the sector to the Gross Domestic Product [GDP] that ultimately led to the scrapping of the federal ministry of tourism and culture.

A state like Lagos State with a full fledge Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture could also be accused of complaisance of undermining travel and tourism contribution to the economy of the state.

Both NBS and Lagos State relevant statistics agency’s inability to use modern and internationally-prescribed standards for measuring Nigeria and Lagos State’s travel and tourism contribution to national GDP and Lagos State, have failed the sector over the years for limiting its tracking to mere accommodation and food services/arts, entertainment, and recreation.

These failures by both the federal and state agencies have denied an industry that is today the largest employer of labour in Nigeria and Lagos State respectively, a well-earned pride of place.

Till date, the two levels of governments have failed to capture international conventions and agreements of the United Nations Statistical Commission approved in 2000, neither have they used the Tourism Satellite Account [TSA] conceptual framework as a new international standard in measuring the sector’s contribution to the GDP.

The TSA takes the form of a basic system of concepts, classifications, definitions, tables, and aggregates linked [“satellite”] to the standard tables of 1993 System of National Accounts [SNA] from a functional perspective.

The TSA aggregates [such as tourism GDP and related indicators] are comparable with other internationally-recognized macroeconomic aggregates and compilations.

The method is a physical indicator associated to the flow of visitors [number of tourism displacements – trips by overnight and same day visitors and their characteristics – as well as overnights] and continues to be a basis of the measurement of tourism from the demand side, but it is no less true that countries now need additional information and indicators to improve the measurement of the economic contribution of tourism.

Without doubt, the estimation of the expenditure associated to the different forms of tourism [inbound, domestic, and outbound] is the main priority.

In the case of inbound and outbound tourism, the measurement and characterization of flows of visitors is usually based on that of non-residents entering the country for a duration of less than a year, and is performed at the borders, either using entry/departure cards, or using surveys at the borders, which at the moment the non-residents usually leave the country. Although few countries, combine in an integrated manner, both instruments [administrative controls and surveys].

Assumed that the federal government and Lagos State officials lack the scientific knowledge of capturing tourist traffic, spending and earning patterns in general, the old-school-way of physical capturing suffices here.

Not too long ago, The Guardian Newspaper of United Kingdom published an article with a headline “Lagos Businesses Cash in on Lure of Super Pastor T.B Joshua” with a rider ‘Hotels, Shops, and Touts in district of Ikotun are doing a roaring trade as church draws visitors from around the world’.

The newspaper correspondent in West Africa, Monica Mark, who was in Lagos in her opening paragraphs wrote; “In Africa’s largest metropolis, the district of Ikotun Egbe has turned into a boom town; the draw? Temitope Balogun Joshua, one of pastors”, whose church attracts 50,000 worshipers weekly – more than the combined number of visitors to Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London.

According to her, people seeking promises of prosperity and life-changing spiritual experiences, flock from around the globe and enterprising Lagos residents – those not evicted by landlords turning their properties into hotels – have transformed the rundown area into a hot bed of business.

Besides The Guardian of London report, the its known all over the world and described The SCOAN as a positive ‘brand’ for Nigeria. The SCOAN is a big brand for Nigeria, and a lot of revenues are generated by those involved in the tourism chain, especially members of ACHAN, who provide nothing less than 35 buses and equally a large number of small vehicles to move these visitors on a daily basis.
All over the world be it religion, man-made attractions or monuments, governments of those countries take pride in marketing and promoting such to tourists around the globe.

Therefore, SCOAN must be supported by all and sundry, rather than malicious campaigns of calumny founded on unsubstantiated information about it and the founder.

Also recently, the hoteliers in the Ikotun-Egbe axis area of Lagos State bemoaned their losses due to low occupancy rate in most of the hotels.

The hoteliers blamed the situation on the SCOAN building collapse, which in turn affected influx of worshippers and miracle seekers to the church.

They noted that before the accident, thousands of Nigerians and foreigners alike thronged the church in search of miracle healings for various afflictions.

The miracle-seekers, all of whom could not see Pastor Joshua in one day, took accommodation in hotels in the area. Thus, the presence of the church and its activities is a major spur for the hospitality industry in the area, as many hotels opened shop mostly to provide accommodation for Synagogue worshippers coming from afar.

But since the collapse of a six-storey structure in the church’s complex, the throngs have thinned out to a trickle, while the hotels have lost revenue running into billions of naira.
Speaking to journalists, the hoteliers, under the aegis of Pilgrims Hotels Association of Nigeria, said the total number of bed spaces of different categories for all the hotels in the Ikotun area was about 3,500.

Before the accident, the hotels as gathered, record 100 per cent occupancy rate due to the church programmes which hold three times a week. Sadly, the occupancy rates now fluctuate between 10 per cent and zero all week long.

Speaking further on the issue, one of the hoteliers, Chief Jerry Omorodion said: “We have been crying for a long time and government does not seem to understand our plight. It is a serious issue for us because our means of sustenance is being wiped out.

“Think about the multiplier effect on the economy of the area. You can understand why we are shouting loudly. No area in Nigeria has a steady inflow of inbound tourists like Ikotun in Lagos.

“We insist that government should understand that being a destination, all over the world, when there is accident, they should put in machineries to get to the root of the accident, take action where necessary without portraying the destination as unsafe and also overtly discouraging people from visiting there. If I may ask, how did other nations manage accident at destinations? This is something we should learn to do”.

Without doubt, there are several mega churches across Nigeria, the fact remains that none of them come close to SCOAN in attracting foreign visitors to Nigeria; the dream of every destination around the world.

What Lagos State fails to understand is that they are lucky to have SCOAN in their state and its high time they valued it or they lose.

UNWTO Needs A Tourism Statesman Like Myself – Mzembi

Walter Mzembi is Zimbabwe Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, an Engineer by profession as well the longest serving minister of tourism in Africa; now campaigning as a candidate for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation [UNWTO], Secretary General, the second African to put himself forward after late Nigerian Matts Ebaboje Da Silva in the early 80s. In this interview with Lucky Onoriode George in Togo recently, he articulates his vision and mission for the industry.

Why are you here in Togo?

I am here as the guest of the Togolese Government and to also present a position paper at the on-going Africa Hotel Investment Forum [AHIF].

Again, to also present my candidature for the position of the Secretary general of the UNWTO to his Excellency, President Faure Gnassingbé for Togo’s support and that of the region.

Basically, to state the obvious, am here to address the net deficit of Africa tourism. As you are aware, the continent’s tourist arrivals have fallen to -3 per cent in 2015 and the future projections are not too encouraging as well, of which I strongly believe that if we have an African at the helm of the UNWTO, we will reverse and bring attention to Africa’s challenges.

I was privileged to have met with His Excellency before I was designated accompany minister when he visited Zimbabwe, but could not stay with him throughout the visit because I had to travel abroad again on another official engagement.

From what I know too, Togo is also working very hard to develop its eco-tourism potentials alongside its neighbours to attract more visitors, just like we are doing in Southern Africa with Kavango Zambezi [KAZA], comprising five southern African countries: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is centred on the Caprivi-Chobe-Victoria Falls area.

KAZA TFCA process historically evolved from the Okavango Upper Zambezi International Tourism Initiative [OUZIT]. However, unlike its predecessor, the KAZA TFCA initiative is owned and led by the governments of the five partner-countries. There is a clear focus on conservation as the primary form of land use, and on tourism as a by-product.

It encourages ownership by the five countries and reflects the priorities determined by these countries. The meeting articulated a clear vision for the KAZA TFCA: ‘To establish a world-class trans-frontier conservation area and tourism destination in the Okavango and Zambezi river basin regions of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe within the context of sustainable development.

Most importantly, to provide opportunities, facilities and infrastructure that shall transform the KAZA TFCA into a premier tourist destination in Africa, made up of a range of independent yet complementary and integrated sub-regional tourism development.

Similar experience can be done in West Africa – Again during drought as we are experiencing now, caused by ‘El Nino’ eco-tourism locations like Togo, will be considered first for relocation of wildlife before outside Africa.

Like other parts of the world, we must push tourism to serve as buffer to our economy, now that oil and manufacturing are all failing. Finally on this, we would find a way to have a travel balance because more Africans preferred to go outside the continent, instead of within.

We are here in Togo and I am sure many that are here may have connected through Europe before getting here, how does that affect our tourism arrival efforts?

So sad that we African have not been able to take advantage of our huge population to develop our aviation, and tourism industry properly.

The Yammosoukkou Declaration of 1988 was a missed opportunity for African countries to capitalise on to develop, especially its aviation sector.

Shamefully again, African Union [AU] has no tourism agenda, but people like me will continue to push for and campaign for the inclusion of travel and tourism content on AU agenda, though efforts are already being made in this regards.

Training is a major issue, how do we achieve good training for our travel and tourism administrators?
I think we have a good start already with the various geo-political structures on the continent.

When you look at Southern Africa Development Commission [SADC], which has a subsidiary tourism body for the region, just like the East Africa body with its own tourism body, same goes for the Arab-speaking Africans, so, why not West Africa, the most populated region of Africa.

With the aforementioned in place, it’s easier to push for tourism integration and cooperation on the continent. To also develop ‘brand Africa’ project, it’s easier to work along regional level as I have explained before, rather than country to country basis because in future visitors will prefer regional packages rather than country by country packages.

What will be your major tasks if you emerged as the new UNWTO Secretary General?

My first major task will be to speed those disadvantaged parts of the world to acceptable level of tourism development and awareness, as well as establishing county by country representative or regional offices to better serve our industry.

Other specialised United Nations Agencies have regional offices and country representatives across the world, why not tourism, world’s largest employer of labour?

Again, there are some big players that are not members of the fraternity at the moment; we have to bring them into the fold. The Likes of the United Kingdom [UK], United States of America [USA], Canada and Australia not being members of the UNWTO is a setback to Africa and the rest of the world.

It’s unimaginable that the aforementioned countries are not members of a UN organ. However, going forward, the UN will have to look inward to say no member nation will be allowed to belong to any of its agency on voluntary basis any more.

Perhaps, a good proposal will have to be put forward to those members currently not part of the UNWTO. These issues will be my very first set of tasks to be addressed, if I emerged as successor to Rafai Taleb.

Meanwhile, we will package, the following and put them forward to all members of the UN that currently stands at 192 nations and territories, whereas the UNWTO membership is below 100 as at today.
Firstly, to properly spell out the benefits and relationship between destinations and source markets, and that there is value in belonging.

Secondly, the challenges of our modern tourism activities that demand that we work together to find solutions than national prescriptions to challenges that are affecting us. Imagine issues of tourism and security excluding the United States, Canada, Australia and United Kingdom, some of the major source markets in the world is inconceivable for anyone to think that the rest of the world alone can find solutions.

Thirdly, the issue that the world is talking about now, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals [SDG’s], cannot be complete without the participation of those four countries.

Finally and fourth, is the issue of global inclusive growth and citizen diplomacy, because there is benefit in belonging to one body.

What was the membership of UN specialised agencies [UNWTO] optional in the first place?

That is why 2017 is a special year, because it has been designated as International Year for Sustainable Tourism Development, and we need to take our case to the United Nations for a debate that how can Permanent Security Council Members be marked absent in a major agency of the UN? I don’t think there have been enough discussions on this too.

What should Africa expect from you, because in most cases, the world doesn’t seem to understand Africa’s challenges properly?

The most important thing is for Africa to have someone in Madrid that the world can understand and Africa can trust. Whoever that is to occupy the UNWTO position should not just be tourism marketing or promotion advocate, but an international statesman that understands tourism value.

How many of your colleagues and past ministers have you reached out to, being one of the longest serving ministers in the world?

Gladly enough, we are a fraternity; once a minister, always one because the job exposes you to the world and people’s cultures.

I am not the longest though, am behind the Azerbaijani tourism minister that has been there for 23 years and the Cuban tourism minister that has stayed for 18 years and I am number three in the world and dean of Africa’s tourism ministers spending my 9th year in office.

From where we are now, I can provide institutional memories from 2008 to now which I think Africa can leverage on as well as the world because of my experience.

Charity they say begins at home, what is the state of the tourism industry in Zimbabwe?

On my deployment in 2008, tourism was contributing about $200 million to the economy, but today, it’s over a $1 billion and we are signing posting for 2016, a 4.1 per cent sectorial growth ahead of mining and manufacturing sectors.

I can also confirm to you that we have also embarked on infrastructural development, especially our airports that are being upgraded.

Victoria Falls International Airport is being upgraded to handle more passengers up to 2 million from half a million yearly. Runways at Harare and Bulawayo Airports are also not left out, as well as our land border posts, there is no magic in tourism because you must receive visitors.