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‘Partnerships, digital connection to boost tourism’

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Kajuru castle, Kaduna


Until stakeholders in the tourism sector in Nigeria and other African countries begin to partner within and beyond the continent, the local industry may continue to lag behind in global development.

The president of Skal International, Lavonne Wittman, said while the potential of tourism, destination and hospitality businesses were not in doubt, the practitioners must do more to market Africa to the world through collaborations.

Travel and tourism are the fastest growing businesses in the world, and the largest employer of labour too. However, the industry in Africa still lags behind. Notwithstanding the good weather year-round and good tourism sites, only Morocco welcomes as much as 11 million tourists in a year.

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The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) 2018 report revealed that Morocco saw 11.3 million international tourists arrival in 2017. Next was South Africa, with 10.3 million, Egypt had 8.3 million, Tunisia 7.1 million and Algeria 2.5 million.

Others in the top 10 rankings are: Zimbabwe 2.4 million, Cote d’Ivoire 1.8 million, Botswana 1.6 million, Namibia 1.5 million and Mozambique 1.4 million.

Globally, France has the highest number of international tourists’ arrivals a year, put at 89.4 million. Next is Spain with 82.8 million, USA 79.6 million, China 62.9 million, Italy 62.1 million, Turkey 45.8 million and Mexico 41.4 million.Wittman told The Guardian recently in Lagos that Africa lags behind because the stakeholders were yet to leverage on cooperation.

Wittman, the first female and first African president of Skal International, said tourism, more like a big organisation, deals with diverse cultures, languages, and different business ethics across the board, though detests working in silos.

“We (in Africa) really need to be powerful within ourselves before we can market the African continent. We need people to work together and be constant in how they sell Africa. Because most times in Africa, we are just working for ourselves without realising that others can help us do this or that.

“This is our problem in Africa. If you look at other continents, they work together and they succeed. We must realise that there is a new set of tourists now. They want to see new things, and Africa must grab that. How do we do that? By working together to sell African tourism as a whole,” she said.

Wittman added that one of the opportunities that await African members of Skal and others in the cooperation drive is the new digital network, beginning from January 1, 2020. She said the digital transformation would change the way they interact and talk to one another.

“Our entire website is going to be transformed to be more attractive to new members, especially the younger membership base, sponsors and advertisers. It will revolutionalise the way we send our correspondents, invoicing and the way we connect. We are a network organisation and need to have products that are futuristic. “Of course, we are going have our differences; we are not going to think the same way. It is one of those things. I have often said that Skal is not a one-size fits all, because what you do in Nigeria is different from what we do in South Africa, America or Australia. Let us embrace our differences to be successful. We have people within their niche markets but we must work together,” she said.

While hosting Wittman in Nigeria, the President of Skal Lagos, Rita Obidike, said the body is the only umbrella organisation that covers the entire travel, tourism and hospitality industry worldwide. Obidike said the wealth of experience that abounds was sufficient to transform tourism in Nigeria.She said: “It means that we can do a lot among ourselves. We all benefit both locally and internationally. Our businesses can grow because we have friends everywhere.

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“In Nigeria, especially, we need to grow tourism. We are not where we are supposed to be. Attending conferences and seeing destinations in other places have shown that we are not there at all. “It is obvious that we have not harnessed our natural destinations. Yet, this is where we have everything natural; they are mostly artificial in other places. We just need to develop them further through collaboration. That way, more jobs will be created and the economy will grow,” she said.

Obidike said further that Wittman’s visit to Nigeria was historical because it was the first time Skal International president would be visiting Nigeria, coupled with the birth of a new branch in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Skal is a professional organisation of tourism leaders around the world, promoting global tourism and friendship. Founded in 1932 in Paris, France, it is the only international group uniting all branches of the travel and tourism industry. Skal Club of Lagos was founded on February 1959 as the 182nd member of the international club.

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