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Africa Travel Association’s 33rd Annual Congress in Tanzania Explores Africa’s Competitive Advantage in Global Market

Africa Travel Association’s 33rd Annual Congress in Tanzania Explores Africa’s Competitive Advantage in Global Market (Forimmediaterelease.net) International Delegates Support ATA Efforts to Promote Responsible Tourism

More than 300 tourism industry experts from Africa, the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia came together in Tanzania from May 19-23, 2008 to participate in the Africa Travel Association’s 33rd Annual Congress, under the banner of Africa’s competitive advantage in tourism.

Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism hosted the event at the Arusha International Conference Center (AICC) in the northern tourist town of Arusha. Also known as the Safari Capital, Arusha is a gateway to the country’s leading travel destinations: Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti Plains and the Ngorongoro Crater.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete opened the event, highlighting the important role tourism plays in promoting socio-economic development across the continent.
“Tourism is a sector whose importance in the economies of many African countries is ever increasing,” Kikwete said. “But tourism in Africa is still at a very infantile stage of development. With the vast tourism resources available in many nations in Africa, there is still greater potential for growth… what has so far been exploited is a very tiny fraction of the tourism potential that exists.”
Africa’s share in the global tourism marketplace remains small, despite the fact that the continent has an abundance of natural and cultural tourist attractions explained the President.

“Africa needs to tap this potential and leverage it to overcome poverty and increase prosperity. Unfortunately many African nations are yet to benefit proportionately to their resource endowments,” he said.

Hon. Shamsa Selengia Mwangunga, Tanzania’s Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, emphasized the need to promote responsible tourism by supporting initiatives that promote conservation and economic growth, while minimizing the negative impacts that the tourism industry often yields.
“In Tanzania, we believe in sustainable development of tourism and are strong advocates of nature conservation,” the Minister said. “We have taken deliberate efforts at a national level to involve local communities in managing natural resources and tourism development, while strengthening private-public sector partnership. We call on all tourism stakeholders to make sure that tourism promotion goes hand in hand with conservation of the natural resources as well as development of local communities.”

Dubai World Africa (DWA), ATA’s first Premier Partner, also spoke at the opening ceremony.
“DWA has long since held in high regard the work that ATA does in Africa and, it is for this reason, that we are proud to be associated to ATA,” said Luis Pinheiro, Director of Hospitality Operations, Africa&Indian Ocean. “From day one of the creation of DWA it searched for an organization that continues to promote Africa. ATA is ensuring that the marketing of our beautiful continent is met with the support which our organization can provide through our presence in Africa. That is why we have become ATA’s first Premier Partner and we are honored.”
ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman spoke of Africa as a destination full of potential, presenting

Tanzania as an example for African nations to turn to when developing national tourism strategies.
“When Tanzania opened its doors to ATA for the first time in 1998, the country had re-launched its promotional efforts in the American marketplace. Ten years later, the U.S. ranks second in the number of tourists visiting Tanzania,” he said.

Bergman explained that in only a short period of time, tourism has become Tanzania’s leading economic sector, expecting to earn $1 billion this year, and to overtake agriculture, the leading contributor to the country’s economy for decades.

The five-day program included topics such as “A Decade of Progress in Tanzania,” showcasing Tanzania’s hotel industry, national parks, ICT development and business travel. Delegates also participated in panels on travel trends, sustainable tourism, airlines media and hospitality and lodging.
Tour operators from Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the U.S. participated on a panel focused on packaging Africa, highlighting their expectations of tour operators. Another panel focused on how tourism can benefit communities, building on the Tanzanian Tourism Minister’s opening remarks.

“Tourism is the largest voluntary transfer of resources from the rich to the not-so-rich in history," said Lelei LeLaulu, President of Counterpart International. “Europeans and Americans take and leave more money in Africa than the US and European governments give in official aid. At a time when a constricting global economy reduces international aid flows, African nations have a golden opportunity to harness the enormous power of the world's largest and fastest growing industry, tourism, to improve the health, wealth, environment and culture of their communities.”

Congress delegates included tourism ministers, tourism board heads, hotel and airline executives, travel agents, tour operators and business executives from Angola, Belgium, Benin, Bermuda, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, the U.S., Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Under the umbrella of ATA’s Young Professionals Network, a delegation of young professionals and students from the U.S., South America and Africa also participated in the congress. The network was created at ATA’s 10th Eco and Cultural Tourism Symposium in Calabar, Nigeria.

ATA media partners—The African Sun Times, Africa Travel Magazine, Canadian World Traveler, Carib News, E-turbo News, Africa Channel, The African Times, Travel Agent, Travel Weekly, OgoSow.com, Traveltalkmedia, Travel World News, covered the congress and highlighted some of Tanzania’s destinations, such as the Ngorongoro Crater, where the Ministry took delegates on a day-long safari.
The Africa Channel premiered a short video special on ATA at the congress, receiving an enthusiastic and positive response from the delegates.

In addition to the Tanzania Tourism Ministry, sponsors included Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, South African Airways, Tanzania Tourist Board, and the National Bank of Commerce. For the second year, Ethiopian Airlines served as the congress’s official carrier. ATA member countries such as Tanzania and Togo also sponsored networking receptions.

At the annual 2008 ATA Awards Gala, the Tanzania government, under the leadership of President Kikwete, received the “Outstanding Service to ATA” award, alongside The Bradford Group. Tanzanian Ambassador Daudi N. Mwakawago received the “Outstanding Leadership in ATA” award. New York

University’s Africa House, Peter K. Muiruri of Hotel Adventure Travel Ltd. and Dr. Chika Onyeani of The African Sun Times received the “Outstanding Achievement in the Promotion of Responsible Tourism to the Continent” award. The Founders Award was given to ATA New York Chapter President Doris Wooten and Travel World News Publisher Charlie Gatt Jr.

At the annual General Membership meeting, ATA elected a new board of directors to lead the association for the next two years. The Executive Committee comprises ATA President, Hon. Shamsa Selegia Mwangunga, Tanzania’s Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, first Vice President, Doris Wooten, Africa Tour Rific President, and the following Vice Presidents: Hon. Issifoui Okoulou Kantchati, Togo’s Minister of Environment, Tourism and Forestry Resources; Hon. Janat Mukwaya, Uganda’s Minister of Tourism, Trade and Industry; Sheraton Addis Director of Sales&Marketing, Omar Carrera; and Corinthia Hotels International Sales Director, Vivienne Willison.

“I look forward to working with the new board and president to stimulate an environment for promoting new and exciting tourism opportunities to Africa,” said Bergman. “I expect this year to be transformational for ATA as we continue to create new initiatives and partnerships dedicated to developing travel products the world can enjoy. In particular, we look forward to advancing our partnership with the African Union in our goal to have 100% Africa country membership and to market ‘Destination Africa’” worldwide.”

About The Africa Travel Association (ATA)
The Africa Travel Association (ATA) is the world’s premier travel industry trade association promoting tourism to Africa and intra-Africa travel and partnership since 1975. ATA members include ministries of tourism and culture, tourism boards, airlines, hoteliers, travel agents, tour operators, travel trade media, PR firms, NGO’s, and SME’s. Visit ATA online at www.africatravelassociaton.org.

Contact: Nathalie Philippe Africa Travel Association Telephone: +1-212-447-1357 Email: info@africatravelassociation.org

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