By Rotimi Ijikanmi
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed says for Africa to take advantage of tourism as its fastest-growing market, the continent must address the challenge of poor air connectivity.
The minister stated this on Wednesday in Arusha, Tanzania at the 65th meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO)’ Regional Commission for Africa.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the meeting being attended by no fewer than 40 African Ministers of Tourism has the theme “Rebuilding Africa’s Tourism Resilience For Inclusive Socio-Economic Development’’.
According to Mohammed, poor air connectivity means customers/passengers finding it more practical to travel through Europe or the Middle East to reach some parts of Africa.
“Poor connectivity negatively impacts productivity and ultimately has a cost implication. New routes and more frequencies will shorten flying time between many cities in Africa.
“For example, as of 2019 there was no regular direct service between Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The most convenient routing available then was via West Africa or Morocco. This could take between nine and 15 hours while a direct service would take about 2 hours only!
“Traveling from Nigeria for example to other African countries are complicated expensive and challenging as there are in most cases no direct flights to many African countries,’’ he said.
The minister noted that tourism growth would continue to be stunted if the challenge of poor connectivity was not urgently addressed.
He said Africa is one of the regions of the world with a steady tourism growth and the continent has always regarded tourism as an important sector for the region’s economic development.
He, however, regretted that Africa’s share of global international arrivals remains a paltry five per cent.
“There is no doubt air transportation is pivotal for any international tourism development, more so in Africa, owing to the need for tourists to move to the product destination.
“Air travels continue to be the dominant mode of travel for international tourists accounting for over 50 per cent of all international arrivals.
“It is obvious therefore that growing air transportation into and within the African region, including effective connectivity is key to unlocking Africa’s tourism potential,’’ he said.
In addressing the challenge, the minister called on all African Ministers of Tourism to co-operate and collaborate with their colleagues African Ministers of Aviation.
The UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, agreed with the minister that poor connectivity has been a difficult and a long challenge in the continent
He said some airlines including Rwandan Air and Ethiopian Air had taken up the challenge but a lot needed to be done.
He assured that the UNWTO would champion a roundtable between the African Ministers of Tourism and Aviation to find lasting solutions o the challenge/ (NAN)