COVID-19: Minister advocates rural, domestic tourism in Africa

Nigeria’s Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said that one of the best post COVID-19 strategies for African tourism development is to focus on rural and domestic tourism.

The Minister stated this in Abuja on Monday at the 63rd Virtual Meeting of the UNWTO-Commission for Africa hosted by Sychelles.

Alhaji Mohammed said it is important for different sectors and governments to develop and implement defined plan and protocols that are country specific to effectively manage as well as mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Minister, the tourism sector is the most severely impacted by the pandemic, at both national and international levels.

He said sector is a driver of growth and economic prosperity, accounting for one in every ten jobs globally. According to him, the employment opportunities provided by the sector benefit a wide variety of people, especially the low-skilled, the youth and women.

“Our sector, represented by the UNWTO, is equally committed through various consultations, activities and research at both multilateral and bilateral levels”.

“At sector and government levels, it is important to develop and implement defined plan and protocols that are country specific to effectively manage as well as mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, taking into account lessons learned from previous incidents like the Tsunamis, Hurricanes, Sars and Ebola, among others”.

“As stifling as the effects of the pandemic may be, as soon as the restrictions are lifted and it is considered safe to travel, the Travel and Tourism Sector; considering its resilience which I referred to earlier, will – hopefully – be in the forefront of global recovery”.

“For us in Africa, after the pandemic, focusing on rural tourism will help speed up the recovery process in the Travel and Tourism Sector. This is because rural tourism employs more people in Africa”.

 “It is however imperative for the UNWTO to support Africa with a ‘Marshall Plan’ of sorts, in terms of technical assistance, capacity building and grants,” he said.

The Minister said to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, the Federal Government of Nigeria has also distribution of foodstuff to a wide range of the population, cash payments to millions of the most vulnerable under the country’s Conditional Cash Transfers and many other interventions.

“Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced a number of monetary policies aimed at cushioning the effects of the pandemic”.

“The private sector has also risen to the challenge, coming together – under the coordination of the CBN – to form the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), which has raised billions of Naira to help fight the pandemic through general public awareness and the provision of fully-equipped healthcare facilities,” he explained.

Alhaji Mohammed revealed that the Ministry has set up a 22-member stakeholders committee to come up with immediate, short and long term economic stimulus and initiatives for the industry, in order to mitigate the effect of the pandemic.

In his remark, the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvilli said it was high time Africa adopted a domestic and regional tourism strategy to accelerate growth in the sector.

He also encouraged the African Tourism Ministers to work with the African Development bank to improve digitization in Tourism.

Meanwhile the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr Amani Abouzeid said the importance of Tourism cannot be overemphasised.

She said Tourism employs over 20 million people about 6.5% of the continents workforce. In the same vein, she re-echoed the domestic and regional tourism development concept as the best way to come out of the pandemic strongly.

The 64th meeting has been slated for Cape Verde sometime next year.

Source: Voice of Nigeria