Tourism players prepare for 2010

At the just ended SADC Investment Promotion Conference-Tourism2006 held in the Namibian capital, government officials, industry players and investors agreed to join hands in creating a vibrant tourism sector.

Programme manager John Gowen told The Southern Times on Thursday that the conference, whose major objective is promotion of partnerships and investment in the tourism sector, had generated huge interest amongst regional players, financiers as well as the EU.

Gowen said that more than 45 letters of intent had been signed and delegates held 971 formal meetings, a clear sign of interest in coming up with partnerships.<BR>
About 168 delegates representing various tourism companies from the SADC region, 66 delegates from the EU, five financial institutions among the European Investment Bank, Development Bank of South Africa, and Standard Bank among others, attended the conference.

Gowen said the feedback had been very positive and encouraging adding that a lot of tourism companies from the region had made the necessary contacts.

He said that tourism companies in the region are looking at marketing agreements with EU firms, joint venture operations as well as ways of sourcing direct capital from the EU.

The EU is one of the region’s major tourism source markets and for countries such as Namibia accounts close to 60 percent of tourism arrivals.

International rankings also classify tourists from such countries as Germany, Italy, Belgium as amongst some of the most high spenders.

Gowen said apart from seeking synergies with EU firms, the conference had also brought together operators from the region, some of whom have professed scant knowledge of tourism markets outside their boundaries.

“The feedback is very positive. People have managed to do deals, made the necessary contacts and generate interest in the tourism products we have in the region.

“More importantly we have managed to promote SADC to SADC partnerships. It is beneficial for them to learn what is happening in the rest of the SADC,” Gowen said.

Players in the sector said they are moving a gear up in marketing the sector ahead of the World Cup soccer tournament scheduled for South Africa in 2010.

Another continental soccer showcase, Africa Cup of Nations has also been scheduled for oil rich Angola in the same year.

Despite the huge potential and abundant natural resources, a major source of tourist attraction, regional players are still faced with the challenge of fully marketing the tourism products and wading of increasing international competition.

“What regional companies are looking for are marketing agreements, joint ventures with EU firms, direct capital as well as access to customers from the source markets.

“We are also looking at partnerships where investors bring investment and linkages such as these get the investment process rolling,” Gowen said.

Conservative estimates suggest that the tourism industry is going to grow by an average 7 percent in the region in the coming four years.

Some countries however are still faced with the problem of lack of air access, Gowen said.

Officially opening the ESSIP Tourism2006, Namibian Deputy Prime Minister Albertina Amathila said that the private sector in SADC and the EU and other potential investors should take up the challenge of investing in the country’s tourism industry.

“Tourism is without doubt, an important employment generator, not only in Namibia but also in the southern African region as a whole, particularly in rural areas where most tourism activities occur,” Amathila said.

“In addition, tourism contributes tremendously to our national economies through the provision of diverse services,” she added.

ESSIP is a core project of the European Commission (EC)-SADC regional co-operation and accounts for a euro 18 million budget from the EU over a period of five years.

The main purpose of the grant is promotion of investment in the region through a combination of institutional strengthening and organisation of five sectoral partnership meetings in key sectors for member countries.

“For most of the SADC countries, tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors. Beside the important contribution to GDP, the sector has the potential to create badly needed jobs. The contribution of tourism towards poverty reduction, the main aim of the EU aid programme, is widely recognised,” said Erhard Loher, head of the EC delegation.

“We also believe that the tourism potential in the SADC region is exceptionally high and provides great opportunities for further development in future despite serious international competition. The key role of the private sector in the development of the tourism industry cannot be over emphasised,” Loher said.

(See Tourism 2006 in pictures on page B…)

October 2006
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