Samba in Africa: Embracing the Tourism Carnival

Promotion of tourism is one of the pet projects of African leaders these days, but somehow the continent has been slow to embrace the concept of tourism carnivals.

Tourism carnivals have long been held in European, Asian and American countries to boost arrivals and how much visitors spend. Fortunately, The Seychelles, South Africa and Nigeria caught on quickly and now it remains to be seen what other countries will do.
Zimbabwe has scheduled one to coincide with the World Tourism Organisation meeting that it is co-hosting with Zambia at Victoria Falls later this year, and it would be hoped that it becomes an annual event.
A carnival is a period of public revelry, partying and festivities all around a common theme. Importantly, it must be held at about the same time of every year to allow potential visitors from anywhere in the world to attend.
Carnivals offer an opportunity to delve into the colourful aspects of local cultures, with people able to sample local foods, music and related artistic performances.
And they can be enhanced by inviting foreign performers to create the kind of cosmopolitan atmosphere that many people from all over the world can feel comfortable in.
It is like a week-long (or however long) street party where the emphasis is on having fun.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority spokesperson Sugar Chagonda says although the issue of tourism carnivals is relatively new in African countries, it is an essential platform for destination marketing.
Chagonda says: “The significance of holding tourism carnivals is that it is a critical platform to develop, promote and market the country’s tourist attractions, as well as unite people from different spheres of life.
“Tourism carnivals also have a number of socio-economic benefits such as job creation and increased revenue inflows.”
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is presently busy with the planning of its inaugural carnival for the country.
“We are expecting artists from 15 or more countries to converge in Harare. Since a number of countries are expected to this carnival, it would be a good opportunity for the hosting nation and participating countries to showcase their diverse cultures,” Chagonda says.
The carnival has been set for May 21 to 26 and has attracted quite some interest both locally and internationally.
Chagonda explains, “Even those countries that are not able to come can still participate through the local embassies.”
The good news is that registration and participation in the event is free – but there are restirctions on the number of participants so those interested would do well to contact the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority with haste.
There is much that African countries can learn from Brazil when it comes to making money out of hosting what are essentially national parties.
There are a number of carnivals in Brazil each year, but the largest by far is Rio’s Carnival as acclaimed by the respected Guinness Book of Records.
According to a representative with the Tourism Company of the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro quoted in the media, the event in Rio this year attracted 1.2 million visitors, with nearly 500 000 coming from outside of Brazil.
In all, the carnivals in Brazil last year are estimated to have attracted roughly 6.2 million tourists from inside and outside the South American nation, and generated US$2.9 billion in financial transactions, which is higher than the US$2.8b realised the previous year, according to the country’s ministry of tourism.
A representative with the ministry says that several factors contributed to this rise, including more attention being paid to tourism and additional promotion campaigns, as well as easier and cheaper travel options and payment methods.
“Carnival is one of the busiest times for Brazilian and foreign tourists in the country,” says José Francisco Lopes, the director of the Department of Studies and Research of the Ministry of Tourism, said in a recent statement.
Chagonda says: “If Africa embraces tourism carnivals, the tourism industry in the continent should never be the same again. Therefore, African governments should fund, support and adopt a multi-sectoral approach in embracing tourism carnivals.”

April 2013
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