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At UNWTO-CAF meeting, stakeholders seek development of tourism statistics in Africa

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PHOTO: NAN

In a bid to create a platform for tourism stakeholders in Africa to brainstorm and chart way forward for the sector, especially in the area of building statistics, the Federal Government of Nigeria recently partnered the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to host a seminar under the theme, Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development.

Held in Abuja as part of the 61st UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa, which was hosted by Nigeria, the session brought together African representatives of national tourism administrations and other related sectors, statistical institutes, international and regional organisations, the private sector and guests from the academia gathered at the, who took turns to proffer solution to lack of data and statistics in the continent, which remains a major challenge to the development of tourism, especially in Nigeria.

In a communiqué titled Abuja Call for Action for the Development of Tourism Statistics in Africa, participants acknowledge that tourism is a transformative socio-economic sector that can contribute substantially to the diversification of national economies and the improvement of livelihoods in our region, adding that the number of international arrivals to and receipts earned by destinations in the region has shown a sustained growth in the past decades.

For instance, in 2017, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) to destinations in the region grew an estimated 8% to 63 million, representing 5% of the world total. This strong momentum is expected to continue at a rate of 5% to 7% in 2018. Based on the UNWTO long-term outlook tourism towards 2030, the number of international arrivals is expected to reach 134 million in 2030. This share in worldwide tourism does not fully reflect the huge potential of tourism in our continent.

The session also recognised that an ever-increasing number of destinations worldwide, and, particularly within Africa, have opened up to, and invested in tourism, turning it into a key driver of socio- economic progress through the creation of jobs and enterprises, export revenues, and infrastructure development while, at the same time, contributing towards the conservation and preservation of natural and cultural heritage.

It also stressed the need to better measure tourism with high-quality official statistical information covering all dimensions of sustainable tourism: economic, social, and environmental in order to develop the potential of tourism in Africa, better plan and manage the sector and support effective evidence-based policy decisions in line with the African Union Agenda 2063, which serves as the basis for Africa’s long term socio-economic and integrative transformation.

Beyond being a technical exercise, participant agreed that the development and implementation of a sound system of tourism statistics is a political and strategic endeavour, requiring wide and consistent stakeholder engagement, collaboration, inter-institutional coordination and leadership.

While recognising that the development of tourism statistics requires the collaboration and coordination amongst all relevant national institutions (such as the National Administration, the National Statistical Office, the Central Bank and the Immigration Authority) and the private sector involved in the compilation and dissemination of tourism statistics due to the cross-cutting nature of tourism, the seminar strongly commit to implement the two official UN statistical frameworks for measuring tourism adopted in 2008: the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008i and the Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework 2008ii. These statistical frameworks enable countries to produce data that is credible and comparable – across countries, over time and in concert with other standards.

Participants also reaffirmed their commitment to produce appropriate and reliable data that adhere to the 10 Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, notably the use of international concepts, classifications and methods in order to promote the consistency and efficiency of our statistical systems at all official levels.

The communiqué also stressed the need for allocating and mobilising financial and technical resources to strengthen and modernise our data sources, including census, survey-based, administrative and innovative sources (e.g. big data), collection mechanisms and dissemination systems while investing in human resources capacity building.

While urging practitioners and stakeholders to promote international and regional cooperation efforts in the area of tourism statistics, including the development of joint programmes and initiatives, the session also seeks the strengthening of coordination and the transfer of knowledge in order to surmount the different stages of national statistical development in our region.

While African countries were encouraged to reinforce their contribution to the UNWTO database on tourism statistics, which constitutes the most comprehensive statistical information available on the tourism sector, the session also extended gratitude to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for its warm welcome and outstanding organisation of the seminar, as well as for strongly voicing that robust statistics are key to manage a sustainable tourism for development in Africa.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, has described the 61st
Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa (CAF) in Abuja as one of the most successful events of the global body. He made the remarks at a joint press conference with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

According to Pololikashvili, the UNWTO will leverage on the success of the meeting to
promote Nigeria to become a top tourist destination in the world, and commended the Minister for putting Nigeria on the global tourism map.

“Thanks to the Minister that is pushing Nigeria as a new tourist destination. We are here to support Nigeria to be the most important and most attractive place to come to visit to enjoy the culture,” Mr. Pololikashvili said.

The Secretary-General, who was received by President Muhammadu Buhari earlier, said the commitment shown by the President to
tourism development has motivated the UNWTO to renew its interest in Nigeria.

He particularly commended the Administration’s Visa On Arrival policy, which, he said, has made Nigeria one of the most accessible countries and urged other countries to emulate the policy.

“We had very interesting discussions with ministers and we made very concrete decisions on how to continue and how to work with African Continent, which has full support from our organisation, and we are very glad that we are going in the right way.

“We have an ambitious plan; we want to promote Africa as one of the main and most important tourism destinations in the world,” he said.

In his remarks, The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Mohammed, said he is satisfied with the conduct of the meeting.

“I know it is for our guests to assess the event, but I must say that I am quite satisfied with the way the meeting has gone so far – the impressive attendance, the quality of contributions, the spectacular nature of the social events and, in particular, the passion and commitment of the Secretary-General, who has attended all the key
events.

“Without being immodest, let me say that we are very proud of the hosting of the 61st Meeting of the UNWTO CAF. We are very proud of the role played by the UNWTO and CAF. We are happy with the attendance of delegates and we are happy with the events overall,” he said.


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