By Jean-Pierre Afadhali
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa(COMESA) has unveiled a toursim and wildlife heritage guide to market the region’s tourism sector , in one of largest regional economic integration on the continent to the world as a single destination.
The Tourism and wildlife Heritage Handbook launched by COMESA Business Concil (CBC), a business member organization and private sector institution of the economic block at the ongoing Annual World Toursim Conference in Kigali,Rwanda will be used by hospitality players to sell 19 -country region as a single toursim destination to the global market.
The guide is launched as business leaders and policymakers from Africa are discussing ways to unlock the continent’s tourism potential amid increasing travel and visa access hurdles that are hindering the growth of tourism on the continent .
“This is in the spirit of promoting cross- border tourism,” said Ms. Sandra Uwera, CEO of CBC at the guide launch.
The guide is expected to help COMESA member countries tap into its tourism ressources , attract investors in hospitality sector,sell the block as a one destination.
“ This is about wildlife that we are trying to conserve” said Dr. Amany Asfour ,CBC Chairperson adding “toursim is our roadmap to growth and prosperity,”
She further noted the guide would bring about socio-economic transformation.”It’s not the book we are launching today,it is the whole tourism sector,”
COMESA hopes to create sustainable toursim marketing strategy, incorporate sustainable tourism elements and promote the region as single destination ,develop a database and COMESA online portal and participate in trade fairs as a region to boost the region marketing .
The book contains facts for every member state on population,languages ,religion,currency and tourist arrivals , highlits key wildlife and heritage attractions .
COMESA officials said the tourism handbook will be a guide to all tour operators in the region, domestic and international tourists.
Dr. Amany hopes it will fast track economic integration in tourism sector .
According to estimates COMESA market has 492,5 million people and the GDP of $ 657.4 billion ,with the area of 12 million square kilometers,a tourism potential with countless attractions that could increase the region’s toursim receipts .
Meanwhile the regional block is pushing for one single tourist visa that would allow tourists to visit the whole region without visa access challenge that has been cited as a key hindrance to the growing intra-africa .