It’s been very busy these past couple of months at RETOSA, with trips being undertaken to various parts of the world to promote our region. As an affiliate member of UNWTO, RETOSA was represented at the General Assembly when it convened in Columbia from 11 to 15 October. At the same time, the UNWTO Commission for Africa (CAF) held elections at which the chairperson, the Hon. Mzembi, was re-elected by a landslide vote.
Critical discussions were held about CAF’s annual work programme. The chairperson proposed that efforts to promote tourism in Africa be strengthened by elevating its importance to a continental level through the the establishment of a tourism unit at the African Union. He noted that there is need to strengthen the African tourism blocks with RETOSA as the flagship for the continent. Host country Columbia’s tourism success story was shared with the delegates as they were told how it transformed itself from a country associated with gang violence and turmoil to the fast growing tourism magnet it is now.
Towards the end of September we attended the JATA Expo in Japan and it was a massive success! After the expo, stakeholders all agreed that it was a most successful undertaking. The RETOSA exhibit was a very popular stop garnering much attention from participants and visitors alike. All the representatives from our region who attended were in agreement that next year’s exhibition must see all 15 nations participate under the RETOSA exhibit.
During the expo, RETOSA also held a workshop targeting the travel trade in Japan. The successful talks resulted in an agreement to have the chief editor of the high-end Japanese magazine, Coyote, visit the region to showcase southern Africa to the Japanese.
With confirmation that the RETOSA partnership with JICA (Japan International Corporation Agency) will be continued, plans are underway to make sure preparations for next year’s JATA Expo begin sooner to ensure the participation of all the member states.
RETOSA entered into the partnership with JICA to obtain technical assistance in penetrating and growing the Japanese market for southern Africa as well as to bring community-based tourism (CBT) across the region into the mainstream. So far, we have managed to carry out a study on CBT development in five of the seven targeted countries.
The expectation is that our final report will provide an adequate base from which a guideline on how we can sustain CBT development going forward will be produced. Key stakeholders can expect this strategic planning framework as well as the guideline for regional CBT by February 2016. Phase two will involve the capacitation of the target groups including Youth and Women in order to enhance their livelihoods.
The upcoming Southern Africa Women in Tourism conference, which is part of the CBT program, is progressing well and we are very thankful to the Government of Malawi for their co-operation. We are confident the strong regional forum we wish to have established will be realised.
We have lined up a number of speakers from the international tourism community including women tourism specialists as well as operators and marketers from southern Africa who will share their experiences and expertise with us in a first-of-its-kind master class in tourism management. The intention is to transfer knowledge and skills to the delegates in an interactive and practical but enjoyable way. The global response thus far has been encouraging. I am looking forward to this conference and hope to see you all in the warm heart of Africa, Malawi!