Transforming Africa through tourism. Why East African Alain St Ange is the best candidate for UNWTO Secretary General
Regular readers know that I specialise in writing about my adventures in Uganda and across East Africa. But behind all this fun, fun, fun, there is a serious message that, given the right support, tourism can transform the lives of people in developing countries. One billion people live on the African continent. Tourism can give communities across Africa the ability to lift themselves out of poverty, pay school fees and invest in the next generation.
I recently had an opportunity to learn about Alain St. Ange’s vision for transforming Africa through tourism, at the launch of the ‘Destination East Africa‘ web portal at the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel.
Alain St Ange is East Africa’s candidate for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO). I have been following his campaign and sincerely hope he wins the vote on May 12th. He is a man who focuses on the issues and has a phenomenal track record in developing tourism in the Seychelles. Vote for Africa, vote for integrity – please share this article!
Alain posed a number of questions to get us thinking about what tourism really is.
“Is the Sheraton Hotel tourism? Yes it is, but even the entrance into the city of Kampala is tourism itself.” There are multiple ways in which people can get involved in tourism and infinite opportunities for profit and for investment.
Echoing the remarks of St Ange, Rex Nijhof, General Manager of the Kigali Marriott Hotel added “Our hotel guests visit markets, get a taxi, eat at other restaurants, and so on, so we should support these people. Our guests spend an average of 50 to 100 US dollars outside our hotels.”
St. Ange continued. “We believe that we should get the whole population of a country involved in the tourism industry. Look at the case of Rwanda. The whole country is involved in keeping the country clean. Even President Kagame takes part in Umuganda community work once every month.”
Did you know… 1 in 11 people work in tourism globally?
“Is it enough just to have big hotels? No, we need to invite people to claim back the industry. We need to find the small businesses and entrepreneurs that will help make the private sector grow, for the benefit of their country. We need to have standards and tourism businesses need to be licensed. This is not about raising money but about ensuring good standards.”
Alain St Ange is the former Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine of the Seychelles, a small country of just 90,000 people. “Tourism is a pillar of our economy. The country suffers when tourism doesn’t work.”
According to Professor Dr Wolfgang Thome, the internationally respected East African tourism commentator, “arrivals in the Seychelles grew and grew with some phenomenal results in recent years. From 2009, visitor arrivals set new records, now in excess of 300,000 tourists per annum. January this year saw a rise of 34 percent more tourists streaming into the islands, to a large part attributed to a liberalized aviation regime which St. Ange influenced.”
Read The Tourism Legacy of Minister Alain St.Ange on the African Diaspora Tourism web site.”The Leader of Leaders Who Created the Carnival of Carnivals. An in-depth look at the one-of-a kind African Tourism Minister’s personality, leadership style, and accomplishments.”
How can we make development via tourism a reality for East Africa?
Alain St Ange is a candidate for the position of Secretary General of the UNWTO, the highest position in the organisation that brings together the Ministers of Tourism from around the world. His track record speaks for itself.
“A Secretary-General for Africa is needed and due. Africa gets less than 5% of global tourism arrivals. We need to grow Africa.
The tourism industry is very sensitive to the notion of the continent being one country. During Ebola, the world forgot that the African continent has 54 states. Travel advisories, for example, often referred to Africa, rather than the particular country they relate to. We need to raise the visibility of UNWTO to address these issues. It should be the rallying power.
I believe that the United Nations needs to be closer to its member states. We need representative offices of the UN in (the bigger countries of) Africa, to ensure UNWTO is well informed on what’s happening on the ground. We need to work alongside the Tourism Ministers of different countries across the continent. We need to decentralise the information-gathering (at the UNWTO HQ) in Madrid.”
Professor Dr Thome adds “In 2017, International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, it is refreshing to hear a candidate with an Afrocentric approach, considerable experience developing world-class tourism in a developing country, strong support for ethical issues supporting the cause of the disabled, and tackling major issues head on such as climate change and marine plastics.”
Read more about Alain St. Ange’s campaign on Professor Dr Wolfgang Thome’s industry-leading blog:
Alain St. Ange has been interviewed by the following highly acclaimed channels:
The elections to determine the successor for Dr. Taleb Rifai for the Secretary-General of UNWTO take place on 12th May 2017.