Friday, 1st December 2023

Notes on the 4th African Youth in Tourism Innovation summit in Namibia

By Dolapo Aina
14 August 2022   |   7:20 am
The fourth African Youth in Tourism Innovation Summit was held from Wednesday 27th to Friday 29th of July 2022 in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. The three-day summit had in attendance the major players and brokers in the African tourism industry and most particularly, the main goal of the summit was to showcase and…

The fourth African Youth in Tourism Innovation Summit was held from Wednesday 27th to Friday 29th of July 2022 in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. The three-day summit had in attendance the major players and brokers in the African tourism industry and most particularly, the main goal of the summit was to showcase and highlight to the participants (both old and young alike) the young and upwardly mobile Africans in the tourism sector on the Continent who attended the summit in their droves from the nooks and crannies of Africa. The deliberations ranged from several pertinent themes ranging from the role of technology in tourism, agri-tourism, favourable policies in the tourism sector, funds sourcing, youth-led tourism initiatives, tourism innovations, sustainable tourism, eco-tourism, virtual reality tourism to name a few.

Panel discussions ranged from career guidance and youth development clinic, pursuing a career in MICE, jumpstarting SMEs and start-ups, transitioning from tourism start-up to micro, small and medium enterprise in tourism, mainstreaming the role of youth, start-ups and SMES as future change-makers across Africa’s tourism ecosystem, understanding critical steps in financial modelling for SME funding in a post-covid era, leveraging the linkages between tourism and fintech as an SME enabler and entrepreneurial opportunity, digital transformation and innovation, growth imperatives for tourism SME and start-up in Africa.

Worth mentioning was the fact that there were several career guidance opportunities for the youth who are in the tourism sector, to tap from the fountain of knowledge of the experts who were also in attendance during the summit. There was a plethora of activities ranging from a major masterclass to several panels. The summit was summarily a focal point to focus on the need to inculcate the youth into tourism.

During the main masterclass: Hando Sinisalu, the Estonian founder of Marketing Parrot, based in Estonia discussed with the attendants on Youth and SME Digital and Social Marketing: The best of digital marketing for tourism, global case studies from an SME perspective. Whilst, Lizanne Du Plessis, the founder of Eco Africa Digital based in South Africa, talked about Youth and SME: Digital and Social Media Marketing. And she also delved into the practical steps for profitable digital marketing approach for entrepreneurs in the tourism.

Linda Pereira, the Senior Partner and CEO of L&I Communications Group, based in Portugal focused on the topic; Unpacking the business of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events). She basically highlighted a vast array of the untapped opportunities for African youth in the tourism space and Entrepreneurship in Africa.

Ms. Pereira further stated that; “Adding pleasure to business is essential. Events are much more than sitting in a room. It has moved from return on investments to return on emotions. You find out the emotional components between various products or places. If I have not heard about you as a country, it isn’t my fault, it is you who hasn’t done your marketing right. It is about perception. If the perception is negative, who is changing the narrative. Perception takes a while and not a day to change. The pandemic pushed us to where we were going anyway.”

One of the speakers rolled out some interesting statistics when she stated that; “There are three billion active users every month. Instagram has one billion people every month. Whatever you are going to do, can get lost. So, you have to make your marketing smaller; you have to make your fish net smaller. You have to find the pool where your clientele are your right smaller tidal pool. 

Several pertinent discussions were had during the 4th edition of Africa Youth in Tourism innovation summit and challenge 2022.

Mr. Sebulon Chicalu, who is the director of tourism at the ministry of environment, forestry and tourism, Namibia gave his remarks by stating that; “Young people have a key role to play in the tourism recovery and Governments should avail them the avenues to play roles in the tourism space; as it would enable them to engage in various enterprises in the tourism sector on the African Continent. He concluded by welcoming everyone to Namibia.

On her part, Ms. Elcia Grandcourt, who is the director, Africa Department, UNWTO (UN Word Tourism Organisation), Spain gave a speech on leveraging the power of innovation and youth entrepreneurship as the key to building sustainable tourism ecosystem in Africa. She stated that, “Everyone is more energized and revamped to kick-start tourism in their different countries on the African Continent as young people consist the future of the tourism sector. Upscaling, training and capacity building are paramount for the African youth in the tourism sector. Innovation, tech and digitalization are all integral parts of the tourism sector.” Ms Grandcourt further stated that, “Africa and youth entrepreneurship would be controlled by people who are ready.”  And she mentioned the UNWTO Awake Challenge which is seeking to find the most innovative startups that are working to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She encouraged the youth to avail themselves of the UNWTO Awake Challenge. And she encouraged everyone to continue to utilize new innovations to drive tourism in their respective countries.

Mr. Kwakye Donkor, CEO of Africa Tourism Partners in his opening remarks stated that tourism in most countries isn’t seen as a serious business. Tourism is everything and everything we do is tourism; he said. Tourism is very central to every corner of the continent. But it has been understated. Innovation is importan and we have to innovate but who are the innovators? Young people. Entrepreneurship is also important and this can be achieved through young people. Business optimization is needed too by young people. He stated that everyone should be active in achieving the tourism goals of the summit.

Whilst Sen Pang, who is the UN Resident Coordinator, Namibia who was represented stated that the Covid19 pandemic exposed the fault lines of most countries and that the pandemic had direct and indirect impacts on economies of countries. He stated that the summit comes at the perfect time as countries ease travel restrictions. In his words; “Covid19 made us appreciate the essence of travelling and movements and that is why Africa has a unique opportunity to reform and invest in education and new skills for her youth for the Africa we want.” 

During another session themed; The Arts and Science of quality assurance: Creating competitive and quality standards for enhanced revenue growth for the global marketplace, Jean Byamugisha who is the executive director of Uganda Hotel Owners Association stated that; “If you make a promise and that is your brand, people would pay premium and top money for your service but quality is lost when you are not able to deliver on your products and services.” And another delegate said that; “The tourist experience starts from when the client makes enquiries and ends when the client ends his or her tour and arrives home.”

Ms. Linda Pereira during the Think Tank Session: Business Events / MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conference Exhibitions and Events): A catalyst for innovative entrepreneurship and human capital development, made a pertinent statement; “Everyone thinks they are event planners. Not everyone is a professional event planner.”

In the Lessons from the Future Reimaging the “Future of Work” and skills development in tourism, travel, hospitality and aviation, Dr. Itah Kandjii–Murangi, who is the Minister of higher education, technology and innovation, Namibia; stated that Namibia is implementing a 5-year plan which includes vocational trainings and soft-skills training. And that educational institutions need to develop courses that are relevant in the 21st century. 

Whilst on his part, Akwasi Obeng-Adjei, who is the director of audit, investment management and insurance, ABSA Group, South Africa stated that Africa is educating young people for jobs that are no longer available.

On what brought about the Africa Youth in Tourism Innovation Summit and Challenge, the convenor Mr. Kwakye Donkor stated that; “The goal is to support and drive youth in tourism innovation, entrepreneurship, employability and career development as well as economic inclusivity.” On his expectations before the summit in Namibia, Mr Donkor further stated that; “It was to mainstream the role of youth in Africa’s tourism landscape, while inspiring the development of innovation solutions for the sector in a Covid-19 era. It also aimed to bring the establishment of Africa Tourism Innovation Hub to life, hopefully, in 2022.” He also rated the outcome of the summit by stating that; “Feedback from delegates, suggests that it has been lauded a very successful event, given that the summit welcomed almost 700 physical delegates, 1400 virtual delegates, 93 renowned local and international speakers with the participation of over 46 countries across the world.” 

At the tail-end of the summit, it was revealed that the Africa Tourism Partners and the Namibia Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) are in the process of establishing and concretising the Africa Tourism Innovation Hub (ATIB) with Namibia as its lead host country. It is believed that this is one of the immediate goals to be implemented based on the key outcomes of the Summit. It was also announced that Durban University of Technology (South Africa) and Namibia University of Science and Technology have expressed their interest to become academic partners for the hub.

The youth in tourism innovation summit would return in 2023 and 2024 take place in the land of the brave known as Namibia.

Dolapo Aina writes from Windhoek, Namibia.