Onsite: ATA Seeks to Brand Africa as Tourist Destination

NEW YORK-Delegates from Africa on Friday congregated at the Africa Travel Association's Second Annual Forum on Tourism at New York University, trumpeting the continent as an appealing tourist destination and outlining plans to market the destination in a format that benefits both the continent as a whole and each individual country. "Growth forecasts look good," said Dr. Yaw Nyarko, vice provost of globalization and multicultural affairs at New York University, "but it's still currently the least traveled region." One problem hurting Africa is that many foreigners still view Africa as one country as opposed to what it really is: a collection of 53 different countries.

"There are so many different areas of Africa that you will never tire of it," said Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, minister of tourism and diaspora relations for the Republic of Ghana. "If you want anything in Africa, you can have it." He added that Africa accounted for only 4 percent of travel arrivals in 2006. "We need a strategy to make Africa more visible," he said.

One way to increase tourism is by adding more hotels, improving infrastructure and increasing source markets, offered the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. "North America is important," he said.

One of the highlights of the conference was Ali Velshi, senior business correspondent for CNN, who believes that Africa should be marketed as an escape from the ordinary. "Africa is exotic," he said. "People want something different from the mundane."

However, he offered some reasons why Africa is still not viewed as a top tourist destination in the global eye. "Visitors want assurances of safety," Velshi said. "Americans like to travel without incident. He also pointed to the rise in high-end luxury travel, but that luxury can be viewed differently region to region. "The measures are not always the same," he said, explaining that a luxury hotel in Africa could equate to something less than luxury elsewhere. "There needs to be some sense of similarity." (DE)