Easier visas coming

Tourism Deputy Minister David Phiri
DELEGATES to the 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly have recommended the need for easier visa facilitation and air connectivity as the two are important for tourism growth in Africa.

Addressing the last media conference, re-elected UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai declared the meeting a big success as it addressed many cardinal issues affecting tourism development.
Dr Rifai said the ministerial roundtable, which was graced by Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) chairperson and Malawi President Joyce Banda, discussed the visa facilitation issue.
He said the delegates looked at some of the remaining steps needed to be undertaken to facilitate easy entry visas to boost tourism in member countries especially in Africa.
On air connectivity, he said the situation should improve among African countries, islands and in developing countries.
“A destination can never be a successful one if it is difficult to access it by air, train, road and car. The issues were discussed in the first ministerial meeting as well as general debate and all the outcomes will be compiled for action to be taken,” Dr Rifai said.
Dr Rifai called for collaboration between air transport and tourism to effectively ease travel and boost operations in booth sectors.
Delegates felt advances and challenges between the two sectors should be shared to ensure harmonisation.
Topics like visa facilitation, the need to make airports more visitor-friendly, taxation, open skies and the impact of low cost airlines were among the issues comprehensively discussed.
Dr Rifai said other issues included the approval and adoption of the programme and budget for the next two years.
Delegates called for the approval and adoption of youth tourism especially that 300 million people were being classified as young travellers.
He said generally the outcomes were aimed at promoting African tourism in future and the hosting of the General Assembly on the continent was part of the efforts to prioritise the continent.
“We convened on the African soil to showcase the continent and prioritise it,” he said.
Dr Rifai said opening the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe had shown how member countries could improve commerce and trade.
“People are beginning to listen. During ministerial table, every country was trying to show-off on how open they are,” he said.
He noted that the current lack of investment in the tourism sector in Africa was as the result of want for financing mechanism especially facilitating capital for Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs)
“Security of tourists is key. A country which is safe to its own people is safe to tourists. Role of police should be to protect tourists. Overprotecting images and scenes make tourists uncomfortable. Tourists should come and feel free,” he said.
Dr Rifai said the improvement of domestic tourism was also key and hoped that there would be an opportunity to create a situation where local people will appreciate tourism.