Today the African Tourism Board became of full age and completely African organization. What started on the other side of the globe, in Hawaii, the African Tourism is now fully African, run by Africans and headquartered in the African Kingdom of Eswatini. Sawubona and Aloha and African Tourism are what connect these parts of the world. This article tells the story.
Hosted by the Kingdom of Eswatini, African Tourism Board’s secretariat is now officially headquartered in this small African Kingdom.
Despite being the smallest landlocked country in the Southern hemisphere, and the second smallest country in continental Africa, Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, more than makes up for its lack of size with a hugely diverse range of attractions and activities.
As one of the few remaining monarchies in Africa, culture, and heritage are deeply engrained in all aspects of Swazi life, ensuring an unforgettable experience for all who visit. As well as the rich culture, the overwhelming friendliness of the people makes all visitors feel truly welcome and very safe. Add to that stunning scenery of mountains and valleys, forests and plains; plus wildlife reserves across the country that are home to The Big Five; and a fascinating mix of modern and traditional festivals, ceremonies, and events, and you have all that’s best about Africa in one small but perfectly formed and welcoming country.
As Eswatini takes admirable strides in its vaccination roll-out against COVID-19, the Kingdom of Eswatini is once again ready to welcome the world through its borders.
As a country proud of its traditional festivals, Eswatini is also placing itself on the map with iconic new-age music festivals and internationally-recognized sporting events. This past week, the Eswatini Tourism Authority welcomed the launch of their 2022 Events Calendar at The Capital Mbombela in Mpumulanga, South Africa. Many of the country’s event hosts and providers attended including Swazi Rally, Swazi Secrets, Big Game Parks, and Lutsango, who showcased the Marula program, displaying the various products that can be made from the Marula fruit.
The launch served to extend to tourists, tour operators, cultural entities, and media, a warm invitation back to Eswatini’s dynamic cultural and entertainment events.
Hawaii is a symbol of Aloha and Tourism. So why is there a connection between the Kingdom of Eswatini, and the US Aloha State of Hawaii?
Relaunch of the African Tourism Board in Eswatini
Hosted in the Kingdom of Eswatini by HE, the Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini, and the Hon. Minister of Tourism, Moses Vilakati, the African Tourism Board re-launched and is now headquartered in this small, but important African country. Eswatini became the center of African Tourism cooperation, the first in Africa. African Tourism Board is reaching out and is welcoming with open arms 54 independent nations to come together. Today’s event was attended by several high-level delegations including the Hon. Philda Kereng, Minister of Tourism for Botswana.
More than ever, tourism is a business of peace. Tourism is run by people of different cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds. The African Tourism headquartered in the Kingdom has an enormous, but exciting task to make Africa one preferred tourism destination for the world.
There is a bond now between the Kingdom of Eswatini and the US State of Hawaii. It’s not only because the only US State that was Kingdom before joining the United States was a Kingdom, it’s because the African Tourism Board has its roots in Hawaii.
In 2017 this Hawaii-based publication eTurboNews had a website africantourismboard.com and intended to establish it for marketing purposes.
Publisher Juergen Steinmetz mentioned this website to some of his friends, including Dr. Taleb Rifai, the former UNWTO Secretary-General, to Alain St. Ange, the former Minister of Tourism, to Dr. Walter Mzembi, the former minister of tourism and foreign minister for Zimbabwe, and his business partner Dr. Peter Tarlow. With the assistance of Reed Expo in London, a complimentary room was secured during the World Travel Market in 2018 to discuss the launch of an African Tourism Board.
Numerous ministers of tourism and heads of tourism attended the event and it was decided to launch the African Tourism Board beginning 2019 at the WTM in Cape Town.
The Hon. Pratt, Minister of Tourism from Sierra Leone was the first to cheer for an African Tourism Board, saying: Let’s rally behind Juergen and his vision to make this happen.” More support was given at the event by the minister of tourism from Mauritius, and by others in the room, including Professor Geoffrey Lipman or SunX , Graham Cooke, founder of World Tourism Awards, and many more of the 214 people attending the event.
When launched at WTM Cape Town eTurboNews had signed up already more than 1000 members of this new organization. The African Tourism Marketing Corporation in Honolulu, Hawaii was established and first hosted and operated the African Tourism Board from the Aloha State.
In April eTurboNews hosted a small delegation to travel to Cape Town for the first launch of ATB. A CEO for ATB was interviewed and appointed in Cape Town, and the current Chairman Cuthbert Ncube was confirmed a week after World Travel Market Africa.
The Hon. Moses Vilakati from Eswatini with his Tourism Board CEO Linda Nxumalo attended the forming lunch hosted by Juergen Steinmetz at the Westin Hotel in Cape Town on the sideline of WTM Africa in 2019.
Juergen Steinmetz promised in his opening address in Capetown, that he envisioned African Tourism Board to be hosted and run by Africans, and as an African Organization for African Tourism. He added African Tourism Board marketing is standing by to help with outreach and effective marketing for ATB members in North America.
With today’s launch in Eswatini, this promise was fulfilled and a new chapter of this organization is emerging.
Thoughts by the African Tourism Board Founder Juergen Steinmetz:
Steinmetz said today: “African Tourism Board is now mature and ready to take the African Tourism world by storm. All of us at eTurboNews, including those that supported ATB from the beginning are so proud to see ATB launch at the perfect time. COVID-19 is no longer stopping many to explore Africa again. This launch is also coming at a time when the world needs to be reminded that tourism is a custodian of peace.”
Steinmetz, who is now the Chairman of the World Tourism Network, a global organization with members in 128 countries added: “We at WTN are now ready to work with ATB on an equal basis. An MOU is in the works for both organizations to play a global role together in the future of World Tourism.”
Steinmetz however cautioned ATB members to make the African Tourism Board inclusive to everyone. “As much as I support everything ATB is doing for as an African Organization, I have a wish for ATB to be inclusive to all, not only to Africans. ATB should show the world the good side of an open society that welcomes travelers from anywhere, of any race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.”
“It’s important to me that the work by so many, including my own staff in Honolulu is recognized and appreciated. We all worked so hard to hand over a well-established framework to our friends and leaders in Africa. Only teamwork made it possible for African Tourism Board to gain the visibility it deserves. This teamwork must continue, and we’re ready to work with ATB.”
Steinmetz urged the new ATB leadership to recognize and maintain the groundwork done by the founders, including the positioning of the well-established website, the many friendships, and global connections introduced to the African Tourism Board.
” Specifically I want to thank the Hon. Minister from Eswatini for his support. He was there for ATB from the beginning, when he accepted my invitation at our initial launch lunch in CapeTown at the Westin Hotel and on the sideline of WTM in 2019. He was supportive even before we appointed Cuthbert Ncube as the first and current Chairman of ATB.”
“I wanted to thank Alain St. Ange and Dr. Peter Tarlow who traveled with me to South Africa in 2018 to interview potential ATB leaders and had been loyal to ATB for years after.
“I specifically want to thank Dr. Taleb Rifai, who often reminded us, we’re all from Africa. He has been a mentor for all of us from the first moment.”
I also like to thank Prof. Geoffrey Lipman, the Ministers from Sierra Leone, Kenya, Mozambique, and Mauritius. I like to thank the head of tourism boards that were part of ATB from the first moment, especially from Uganda, Cabo Verde, St. Helena, Tunisia, Egypt, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, The Gambia, Sudan- just to name some. I like to thank Graham Cooke from World Travel Award, the Hon Edmund Bartlett from Jamaica, and of course, Dr. Walter Mzembi who was allowed to say a few words at today’s event.”
Due to technical limitations, Juergen Steinmetz was not able to address today’s event directly but submitted his feedback to the Chairman and to Dr. Mzembi who spoke on behalf of the former Executive Council.
Chairman Cuthbert Ncube delivered the following address today:
Let me wish you a very Good Evening and a warm welcome to all of you.
It is an absolute honor to be here in the Beautiful Kingdom of Eswatini. It is always a delight to be here and take in the scenic beauty and the warm hospitality of the people of Eswatini.
I am delighted to see each and every one of you here this evening. It has been a long day, and I had the opportunity to meet and greet some of you earlier this morning during the Expo.
As we all know, the tourism sector is characterized by meeting, interacting, and mingling, and this is what we are going to be doing here today.
Who could forget the disturbing times when someone coughs and off you run. No handshakes, no hugging and you have to keep a distance. But here we are here today, and by the grace of God, we can at least shake hands and give big hugs in the typical African tradition! Things have returned back to normal my brothers and sisters!
But let me take you back a bit with a few numbers.
Prior to the pandemic, Travel and Tourism had the highest contribution by sector to world service exports, representing US$ 2.9 trillion to the global GDP in 2019 and 300 million jobs across the globe, according to UNWTO estimates.
Moreover, up until the COVID-19 crisis, the tourism sector had been one of the fastest-growing economic segments worldwide.
Tourism represents about 8.5 percent of Africa’s GDP and employs around 24 million people.
By 2019, there were over 1.5 billion tourists worldwide, and the travel and tourism sector had grown to almost too big-to-fail proportions for many economies.
But it is what it is.
The COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented in its scale, has put 100 to 120 million jobs at risk, many in micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.
Many of these jobs at risk are held by youth and women putting these marginalized groups at even greater economic risk.
Today, international tourism exports account for 7 % of global trade in goods and services, or US$1.7 trillion in 2018 according to UNWTO estimates.
At the onset of the pandemic, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimated that this historic collapse in international travel could result in a loss of a US$ 910 billion to US$ 1.2 trillion in export revenues and 850 million to 1.1 billion international tourist arrivals.
As a consequence, global foreign direct investment (FDI) also collapsed in 2020, falling 42% from US$1.5 trillion in 2019 to an estimated US $859 billion, according to the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
These numbers are discouraging indeed.
Nevertheless, the fall was not the same across regions, Africa recorded a 18 % decline (from US$45.37 billion in 2019 to an estimated US $37.20 billion in 2020) compared to minus 46 % in North America for example.)
In light of these anticipated changes, a number of promising segments might be worth investing in, including domestic, regional, and continental tourism since long-haul tourism is expected to take longer to recover.
Winston Churchill famously said “Never let a good crisis go to waste”, he was right. The Pandemic may have brought a global crisis, but it also opened many doors of opportunity for Africa’s tourism sector.
We as Africa, are now beginning to see the potential of each of our mesmerizing destinations, especially if we market them as one. We are beginning to see Africa as a Tourism Power House, that can compete with other regions around the world.
We have the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro in Unforgettable Tanzania, The majestic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, The glorious Okavango Delta in Botswana, The captivating Kruger National Park in South Africa, The beautiful beaches of Mozambique, The Freedom to Explore the beauty of Sierra Leone, The majestic Gorillas of Remarkable Rwanda, The incredibly rich culture of Benin, The captivating sunsets of Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, The exciting and vibrant regions of Angola, The enchanting Island of Zanzibar, and of course the Royal experience of the rich cultural tourism of Eswatini. These are just some of the gems of tourism that Africa has to offer, I have only mentioned 14 countries, and there are 40 other incredibly amazing destinations that make Africa spectacular.
We are here today because we believe in making Africa a one-stop Tourism Destination. This is ATB’s Vision. African Tourism Board is a melting pot of member states who have come together, to bring this vision into reality. What has happened here today in Eswatini, under the gracious leadership of Hon. Moses Vilakati’s support is a testament to what true collaboration really is.
Hon Vilakati, on behalf of ATB, we thank you and the government of Eswatini from the depths of our hearts. We are here because of your gracious hospitality.
I would also like to thank my Honorable colleagues, Ministers of Tourism from different African Countries, some of whom are present here today, who have wholeheartedly given ATB their support in many ways than one.
I also would like to thank ATB’s Executive Committee, who has been at the forefront of working together to make this day possible, especially to our patron Dr. Taleb Rifai, and co-founder Juergen Steinmetz.
We would not have been here today if it was not for the tireless efforts, support, and commitment of all the ATB Ambassadors from all over Africa, I cannot mention each by name, but I truly am indebted to the contribution they continue to give to ATB. Honorable Ambassadors, I salute you.
As I conclude, I urge us all here to reflect on the sector’s contribution towards the socio-economic recovery of Africa. If we want to go fast, we walk alone, but if we want to go far, we must walk together. Africa, let’s take this journey together.
Today was a good day – so let’s make every day better from now on.