Can domestic and intra-Africa tourism be the answer to the effect of COVID-19 pandemic? (2 )

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Ghanaweb came out with a news report on Sunday 12th April 2020 regarding some revealers seen enjoying themselves at a beach near chorkor. This was really troubling news in this period of lockdown and social distancing. When Ghanaweb’s lenses caught up with these persons, most of them could be seen engaging in various activities including swimming, football, acrobatics display, etc. whiles others just sat on the white sand and others stood afar to observe activities at the beach.

As surprised as we may be, Ghana is however not the only country to have experienced such a phenomenon. In the UK, Devon and Cornwall police said it was working with the Ministry of Defense police after reports of large groups of people gathering on the area’s beaches to sunbathe in Good Friday temperatures of 24C.

Following that situation, marine fleets from bases in Portsmouth and Plymouth will be operating along the Dorset, Devon and Cornwall coastlines ensuring people do not gather unnecessarily on beaches.

There were also news reports that crowds descended on California beaches, hiking trails and parks in open defiance of a state order to shelter in place and avoid close contact with others. California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a shelter in place order directing the state’s nearly 40 million residents to stay home to help stop the spread of coronavirus. This show that people are missing their tourism especially visiting the beaches. Officials of La Pleasure Beach said, revealers still come to the beach in this moment of lockdown however they have been turning them down. It must be noted that the Chorkor beach is not an organised beach.

I was at the market to buy some food stuffs and I realised that many people there are not adhering to the 2 meters social distancing. Could it be that they are not aware of the dangers associated with COVID-19 or they just don’t care and it’s business as usual.

I believe those folks who went to the beach at Chorkor fall into this category of people who don’t understand the risk associated with not engaging in social distancing. The education is very important because the lockdown is aimed at achieving a particular purpose and if people will be home and still not ensuring the recommended social distancing and adhere to other measures to ensure the prevention and the spreading of this virus, they will be making the work of government difficult. If the education had sank well into the minds of these folks who turned up at the beach maybe they won’t have been there. Maybe it did sink well however they are just not law-abiding citizens and they must be forced to comply. These individuals put us all at risk and with the tourism industry already hard hit by the COVID-19, the last thing industry players will need is this kind of action. Today IATA came out to say that airlines will lose revenue in the range of billion $314 and with the job losses ranking high, it is very prudent that domestic tourism is put on hold for now.

Patronizing beaches at this moment is highly not recommended and I hope people will understand this. When the COVID 19 has been dealt with, they will have all the time at the beaches and enjoy their domestic tourism once again. I also want to add my voice to the treatment suffered by our fellow African brothers and sisters in China. African Union (AU) Commission Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has met with the Chinese Ambassador to the AU, Liu Yaki, to express concern about allegations. Mahamat has called for immediate remedial action to be taken against the alleged xenophobia. He says those affected will be assisted accordingly. It’s sad Africans have to go through this maltreatment especially when Chinese also live in Ghana and many are involved into illegal activities geared towards destroying our environment and water bodies. They must understand that the world is a global village and just as we have remained hospitable to them, they must also do same to our brothers and siters living there.

As part of measures by the AU to improve trans-African tourism, there have been a number of initiatives that could address the challenges that the continent faces and some solutions that the tourism industry could help championing. Firstly, it is reported that on January 2018, the AU launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) with the immediate signing up of 23 member states. It is expected that SAATM will open up African airspace, thereby improving connectivity and lowering the cost of travel. The potential benefits are expected to be high, with IATA estimating that upwards of 155,000 new jobs and an additional $1.3 billion of GDP would be realised if just 12 countries were to ratify SAATM. Secondly, in March 2018, 30 states signed the AU’s Free Movement Protocol (the Right of Establishment), with an additional state joining in April 2018. This initiative too will ease the movement of Africans around the continent. Many a time what is discussed at the top levels do not reflect what happens on the ground. Its important the AU sets up a task for to monitor and ensure implementation of the free movements.

Thirdly, over the same period in March, 44 states signed the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The tourism industry stands to benefit in a number of ways. Under the Free Movement Protocol, the sector could gain from the free movement of labour given the disparities across the continent in terms of skills and knowledge. Similarly, the sector could serve as a pathway through which the potential of the AfCFTA could be maximised. One area of interest will be the organisation of conferences on the continents. In achieving that, African countries will have to build edifices that can host huge trade exhibitions and conferences. For now Ghana in on the right path and when the Marine Drive Project and the redevelopment of the Trade Fare Centre is complete, many traffic will be drawn to the country.  In North America, Europe and Asia, 80 per cent of tourists travel within their own region.  Again, the share of regional trade in North America, Europe and Asia is high, at 50 per cent, 69 per cent and 52 per cent respectively.

The same, unfortunately, does not apply to our continent either in terms of tourism or trade. In fact, intra-Africa tourism and trade shares currently stand at just 40 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. Of interest, nonetheless, is that there is a consistent pattern between tourism and trade as evident in the case of the leading tourism destinations in the world and their respective trading partners. For example, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Spain are among the top 10 source countries for France, which has consistently been the EU’s leading tourism destination hosting close to 90 million visitors in 2019 (of which close to 70. million were from Europe). Likewise, these countries are also among its top 10 trading partners.

The same scenario applies to the United States of America and Asia. All this suggests a causal relationship: The higher the level of intra-regional tourism, the higher the apparent level of intra-regional trade and vice versa. Tourism is about people travelling to other destinations, opening up possibilities of cultural exchange as well as the identification of new business opportunities exploring new tourist attractions, shopping and entertaining themselves.

The limited movement of Africans within the African continent has meant that very few, say, East Africans have been to central or West Africa and vice versa, and hence there is no way of knowing what opportunities are being wasted due to this lack of interaction. Promoting intra-Africa tourism could, therefore, catalyse the generation of opportunities within the context of the AfCFTA. The effect of over 100 year of colonialism on the African continent, has also been attributed to part of the problem the continent faces today and if we are to achieve intra-Africa tourism, we all are to change our mentality( believing everything from the West and now China is better than ours). We can only make our industries strong when we patronize made in Africa goods and services. We must be proud of our tourist attractions, beautiful beaches and tell ourselves we can make it happen and that high sense of patriotism is necessary. With what is happening to our brothers and siters in China, the turning point is now. We must understand that home is sweet home and let us all make it work. I would like to end with the words of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah;

“Africa is one continent, one people, and one nation. The notion that in order to have a nation it is necessary for there to be a common language; a common territory and common culture has failed to stand the test of time or the scrutiny of scientific definition of objective reality… The community of economic life is the major feature within a nation, and it is the economy which holds together the people living in a territory. It is on this basis that the new Africans recognise themselves as potentially one nation, whose dominion is the entire African continent”.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visit our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations

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