Word from the COMESA Secretary General

Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya

It is a great honor and privilege to present the first ever COMESA Tourism and Wildlife Heritage Handbook that highlights the tourism potential that the region has to offer. With an estimation of 492.5 million people, GDP of $657.4 billion and an area of 12 million square kilometers, the COMESA region is endowed with an abundance of diverse natural resources. The region has potential of attracting large numbers of tourists and significantly contribute to the regional GDP and create employment for the locals. Each of the 19 member states of COMESA has distinct magnificent tourist highpoints, beautiful diverse cultures, breath taking heritage sites and most of them are hosts to some of the seven wonders of the world. Some of these tourist attractions include the Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe, historical islands and monuments of Seychelles, the mountain Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda, the pyramids of Egypt, historical churches,the Gebel Barkal Pyramids of Sudan, temples and tombs of Ethiopia,pre-historic

fossil heritage of Kenya, the great dzimbadza- Mabwe of Zimbabwe, several mountainous sites and many more attractions. The diverse indigenous African cultures has comparative advantage when it comes to promoting and developing cultural tourism. The many cultural ceremonies that Africa is home to play a major role as tourist attractions. Further cultural tourism will contribute to the promotion of international peace and cross cultural understanding. As COMESA we believe that the number of intra - regional and international tourists visiting the countries will continue to increase. Once boosted and utilized Tourism in the COMESA region has the potential to contribute to poverty reduction, become a source of foreign currency generation and promote Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs). The COMESA Tourism Development Framework highlights that Tourism continues to be a primary development strategy in the region due to the fact that it is seen as an export oriented growth and poverty reduction strategy by many countries within the region. Currently tourism accounts for 9.2 percent of global GDP and contribution to employment stands at 6-7 percent of jobs worldwide, (World Travel and Tourism Council). One of the key recommendations to promoting Intra COMESA Tourism is encouraging open skies and more affordable air fares to encourage more movement of regional tourists to our neighbouring countries. In the next 10 years COMESA will be a high quality tourism destination with a unique and diverse African experience with affordable accommodation packages.

From the global perspective, tourism is recognized as a growing industry with pivotal role of enhancing the economic and social development of countries. In 2010, the tourism arrivals were estimated to have reached 940 Million with an estimated income of US $919 billion. Out of this Africa’s share was 49 million which translates to 3 percent, further the sector contributes 4.8 percent of world exports and 9.2 percent of world investments. In 2016, 1.2 million tourists’ arrivals were recorded world over, showing significant growth for the sector in the past six years. Out of this Africa was ranked second with 8 percent from Middle East that was at 10 Percent. (UNWTO, World Tourism Barometer).

The region is endowed with more than 100 National game parks, home to various types of animals and other species. The region has more than 50 recognized heritage sites. COMESA has easy air connectivity with 4 national carriers namely Ethiopian Airlines with a fleet of 92 planes, Rwanda Airlines comes in with a fleet 13 aircrafts, Kenya Airlines with a fleet of 84 planes and Egypt Air with a fleet of 47 planes providing daily flights in the region.

declared 2017 as the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development”. COMESA is on course towards meeting this agenda through product development and marketing of a single tourist destination with a number of strategies that have been put in place. These include among others; to promote COMESA Transboundary tourism packages reflecting diversity of the COMESA region: create historical tours, religious tours, mountain climbing, birding tours, etc. Further to Develop policies, guidelines and products for cultural and community tourism across member states ensuring incentives for private sector investors in cultural and community tourism. Finally to create a COMESA sustainable tourism marketing strategy to incorporate sustainable tourism elements and promote COMESA region as a single destination and to introduce annual Sustainable Tourism Conference where member states review progress and use conference to build awareness; create exhibition within conference to highlight appropriate environmental technologies for sustainable tourism.

Please walk with us, as we take tourism to new heights.