UNWTO Reiterates commitment to realize tourism potential in Africa

by Olamilekan Okeowo

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has reiterated its commitment to work closely with all African Member States to realize the potential of tourism and in turn help societies recover from the effects of the pandemic and enjoy long-term sustainable growth.

The Secretary-General of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, made this known during a three-day official visit to Namibia, the first visit to an African Member State since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the meeting with Dr. Hage G. Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, Pololikashvili outlined the commitment of UNWTO to realizing the potential of tourism in a bid to drive sustainable development, including for youth, women, and rural communities. Pololikashvili also used the occasion of the visit to commend the head of state for his leadership, particularly with regards to the international tourism revival initiative which includes the key health and safety protocols drawn up by UNWTO.

“UNWTO is committed to working closely with our African Member States to realize the potential of tourism to help societies recover from the effects of the pandemic and enjoy long-term sustainable growth. The UNWTO Agenda for Africa maps our collective way forward, and I am pleased to see first-hand the commitment shown by the Government of Namibia to support tourism at this vital time and embrace the sector as a driver of positive change for all,” Pololikashvili disclosed during the meeting.

During the visit, Pololikashvili also met with Vice-President H.E. Nangolo Mbumba to express support for African Member States as they use tourism to recover and grow. Additionally, the UNWTO delegation met with Honourable Pohamba Shifeta, MP, Minister of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism to identify ways of growing the country’s tourism sector, including a greater focus on gastronomy tourism, rural and community-based tourism.
Recall that as the United Nations specialized agency for tourism, UNWTO has been actively guiding the sector’s recovery and restart from this unprecedented crisis. To reflect the new challenges, it has worked directly with its African Member States, including Namibia, to adapt the 2030 Agenda for Africa: Tourism for Inclusive Growth, the landmark roadmap for the responsible growth of tourism across the continent. This official visit offered a first chance to follow up on virtual meetings and advance the preparations for the restart of a sector upon which millions of African livelihoods depend.

In highlighting UNWTO’s determination to lead by example and to show that travel is safe and be active on the ground when conditions are right, the delegation visited several of Namibia’s leading tourist sites. These included the Namib Sand Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is ready to welcome tourists again, and also historical Swakopmund and the up-and-coming Walvis Bay tourist destination. Secretary-General Pololikashvili met with Honourable Neville Andre, Governor of the Erongo Region of Namibia, to offer UNWTO’s strongest support for local tourism, including businesses.

Additionally, the Namibia Tourism Expo provided an opportunity for UNWTO to engage with public and private sector leaders from across the region and sent a clear message to the world that Namibia, “The Land of the Brave” is open and ready to welcome tourists again.

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