Africa: SADC to develop regional tourism programme
Southern Africa is developing a plan that will guide and coordinate tourism development in the region.
This is in line with a directive made by a joint meeting of SADC ministers responsible for environment and natural resources, fisheries and aquaculture, and tourism to the SADC Secretariat in November 2017 to develop a SADC tourism programme.
The regional tourism programme is expected to serve as a roadmap for the development of an “ethical tourism industry”, as well as facilitate the removal of barriers to tourism development and growth.
The draft SADC Tourism Programme is set to be finalised this year and once developed the secretariat will mobilise resources to support its implementation.
The successful implementation of the programme will allow the region to become one of the most preferred destinations in the world, allowing countries to realise better proceeds from their numerous tourist attractions such as the Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe, San rock paintings in Botswana and the absorbing wildlife population in the region.
Creation of a better tourism environment in SADC will present new opportunities for sustainable development, as well as deepen integration as countries will be expected to harmonise their policies and jointly market their attractions.
Globally, tourism is the third largest industry, contributing about 10% of the global Gross Domestic Product and offering an estimated 313 million jobs as of December 2017.
However, SADC and the rest of the African continent continue to realise limited benefits from its vast tourist attractions due to various factors including restrictive travel policies such as visa systems that require travellers to the region to apply for a visa each time they enter another country.
To address these challenges and benefit more from tourism, SADC has prioritised tourism as a means of promoting sustainable development.
In 1998, the region developed a Protocol on the Development of Tourism, which aims to encourage cooperation between governments and the private sector through a favourable investment climate that promotes sustainable tourism, preserving the region’s natural and cultural resources. Other key regional initiatives that provide for a complementary and broad legislative, institutional and programming context for the development of tourism include the:
Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA) – a body responsible for the development of tourism and regional destination marketing across. RETOSA is now under transformation;
SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement – a legal instrument that commits member states to promote the conservation of shared wildlife resources through the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas;
SADC Protocol on Facilitation of Movement of Persons – an instrument that requires member states to develop policies aimed at the progressive elimination of obstacles to the free movement of capital and labour, goods and services and of the people of the region; and SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) – the Tourism Sector Plan of the RIDMP is geared towards achieving enhanced infrastructure development to promote smooth movement of goods, services and people across the region.
The reform of the RETOSA is aimed at transforming the body from being a public organisation to a lean, more agile, dynamic and private-sector-driven regional marketing entity.
Established in 1997 as a SADC subsidiary organisation, RETOSA was mandated to encourage and assist in the development of tourism in the region and market southern Africa as a single but multi-faceted tourist destination. However, in a move aimed at strengthening the organisation, SADC Ministers responsible for Tourism in July 2016 approved the organisational transformation of RETOSA to ensure that it focuses more on marketing, leaving tourism policy coordination functions to the SADC Secretariat.
The ministers directed the Secretariat to take advantage of the ongoing restructuring process to establish the Tourism Policy Unit within the SADC Secretariat in order to ensure effective coordination; development, harmonisation and implementation of tourism policy and related issues.
Consequently, a Tourism Coordination Unit was established within the SADC Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR) Directorate.
Therefore, the process to develop a SADC Tourism Programme to guide and coordinate tourism development in the region is a holistic approach aimed at restructuring and developing the tourism industry in southern Africa.