African hospitality sector needs stronger branding – tourism experts

AFRICAN economies must intensify efforts towards branding the image of the hotel and tourism sector as the continent continues to gain traction as a major global force in the hospitality industry, experts said in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda.

Speaking at a panel session dubbed ‘Brands Innovation Update’ during the recent Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) that kicked off here on Tuesday, hospitality players called African countries to focus more on selling a positive image of the continent’s tourism and hotel sector.

‘For long, African image has been perceived globally as of a broken continent, devastated by war, violence, robbery, disease and corruption which impede the growth of hospitality industry. The continent should focus more on broadening the narrative and tell a more balanced, honest story about Africa,’ said Karl de Lacy, International Development Director of Best Western Hotels and Resorts, Ireland.

He said the image of Africa does not reflect its economic transformation, diversity, entrepreneurial aspirations, investment growth, infrastructural development and stability.

Travel and tourism is seen as a highly attractive growth industry in Africa, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The sector is responsible for 8.1 percent of Africa’s GDP and it is forecast to rise at 4.9 percent per annum until 2025.

According to Paul Mack, executive director of the Latitude Hotels Group, branding the continent positively by telling real stories happening across tourism and hotel development would make African region a popular tourism destination.

‘Africa is a continent of opportunities with a lot of untapped potential, but all is lost in the negative images. There is a need to create strong and positive messages for an entire continent that highlights Africa as hotspot for safari destination,’ he said.

The interactive session highlighted partnerships between the government and the private sector as key to creating stronger brand message about Africa hospitality industry.

Driving the necessity to attract tourists and investors in Africa requires promoting the positive narrative about the continent’s structural information in all sectors of the economy, said Andrew McLachlan, vice president of Africa and Indian Ocean Islands office at the Rezidor Hotel Group.

He called on African governments to create conducive environments for travellers and investors, most especially in volatile regions, to influence the message positively.

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