The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is in the process of developing a comprehensive and strategic blueprint for regional tourism development that will look into such diverse issues as cross border tourism, standardization of hospitality facilities and regional branding.
The strategic framework will also address issues such as common and unified tourism statistical and data systems, harmonised immigration policies, joint promotional and marketing strategies, market intelligence sharing and joint product development strategies.
|Gambian Leader, Yahya Jammeh|
President Yahya Jammeh, whose statement was read on his behalf by The Gambia’s Minister of Basic and Secondary Education on Friday during the maiden ECOWAS Tourism Ministers Summit held in Banjul, said the strategic objectives of the comprehensive framework are to render ECOWAS destinations more interesting and attractive, increase the volume of inbound tourism to and within the ECOWAS zone and at the same time create investment awareness for tourism development in the sub-region.
“I am equally aware of the challenges and hurdles along the way towards the realization of these noble objectives, which among others, include the tenuous and inconsistent international flights availability, often limited internal transport links, cross border access difficulties including cumbersome visa formalities,” the Gambian president said.
However, he noted, these bottlenecks are not insurmountable, and with commitment and dedication of all ECOWAS countries and stakeholders in the sub-region, there can be significant improvements that will facilitate sub-regional tourism, trade and business in general.
Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie, Minister of Tourism and Culture, said that at the level of ECOWAS, some “very pragmatic and robust programmes and projects have been ongoing”.
These programmes are underpinned by a consistent consultative process involving all member states, geared towards boosting tourism in the region, she noted, saying these measures have touched on some key critical areas, ranging from the review of classification standards for hotels, motels and inns, to opening of ECOWAS information desks in airports and supported by a training programme, the design and harmonization of boarding and landing passes.
Efforts geared towards the realization of these projects and others will be intensified, the tourism minister said.
Developing the strategic blueprint for regional tourism development in West Africa is said to dovetail neatly with the other strategic priorities of ECOWAS in terms of boosting sustained development and cooperation in the region as well as of promoting the development of infrastructure and investment and other national socio-economic undertakings.