East Africa Development Forum: Seeking Solutions for Brand Africa

The inaugural East African Development Forum opens today at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa; for a three day event that will bring together representatives from three EAC states as well as the Indian Ocean Islands. President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to give a keynote address to the attendees as part of provisional preparations for the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) 10th Ministerial Conference scheduled to take place in the country later this year.

The Forum will discuss solutions to issues affecting tourism in the region.

The conference comes barely a month after another first: President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya, and the Global Entrepreneurial Summit, that have both gone a long way in rebuilding the country’s hitherto tainted image that saw tourist arrivals plummet by 18.9 percent in the first half of 2015.

“We’ve seen an increase of interest for inbound arrivals especially from Europe, Kenya’s leading tourist source market. This coincides well with the wildebeest migration, a global tourist attraction in Kenya as the rest of the region prepares to handle a buildup in numbers throughout the peak season” said Estelle Verdier, Managing Director for Jovago.com, East and Southern Africa

The theme for this year’s event, Connecting Opportunities will bring together global industry officials including Mr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), newly appointed UNWTO – Regional Director, Africa Elcia Grandcourt together with local representatives including Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie and Hon. Ali Hassan Joho, Governor Mombasa County.

The conference, jointly organized by UNWTO and Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism will among other issues discuss the sector’s performance at both regional and continental levels while engaging respective state delegations on regional cooperation and enhancing “Brand Africa”.

Solution Oriented Discussion

The conference will hold discussions focusing on finding solutions to uplift the tourism sector in the region as well as harnessing different under-published destinations and attractions within the region. Tourist numbers in Africa have experienced a serious decline, with growth going down about 6% in the Q1 2015, due to both geopolitical and economic challenges facing the continent.

Tourism however remains a leading source of employment accounting for 7.1% of total employment and contributed USD196.8bn (8.1% of GDP) in 2014.

In conclusion, Verdier noted that, “every country and region must package competitively their products for today’s globalized market” while emphasizing on the collective duty for tour operators, agents, OTAs, transport and hotel sector to ensure that their products and services offer value and competitive advantage.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) 10th Ministerial Conference is scheduled to take place from 15 to 18 December 2015 just a month after the much acclaimed Africa Travel Association (ATA) 40th Annual World Congress in November.

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