from MTHULISI SIBANDA in Durban
DURBAN – THE analogy between elephants dismantling some border fences and the need to ease border restrictions is the prevailing theme as executives recommend strategies to enhance regional tourism.
This came up at Africa’s Travel Indaba at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa where officials raised some concerns on the barriers to intra-Africa travel.
Captains of the industry participated at a session titled, “Reimagining Localism and Regionalism in Tourism- The Business Case for Intra Africa Travel.”
The session sought to unpack travel and tourism business opportunities in key African and domestic markets.
Themba Khumalo, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of South Africa Tourism, related how trans-frontier parks came to being in the Southern African Development (SADC) bloc.
“Elephants were rubbing against the fences and taking them down. Initially authorities would repair the fences and the elephants again would destroy them,” Khumalo said.
It became a vicious and costly cycle.
“Eventually, they let the elephants roam among countries freely,” Khumalo said.
Some transfrontier parks in the region include the Kgalagadi in the Kalahari Desert region of Botswana and South Africa, bordering Namibia to the west.
The Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area, presently being developed, will cover an area of 4 872 km2, comprising Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Khumalo also lamented the limited direct airlift, which culminated in travellers and tourists having to fly from one African country to another but via Europe.
Givemore Chidzidzi, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Acting Chief Executive, said, “The boundaries (borders) are (human) creation. The animals have taken them down and we need to follow suit.
He disputed that the opening of borders would spark a migration crisis.
Chidzidzi also lamented some bottlenecks at some borders in the region, singling out the recurrent crises at the Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Over 65 percent of Zimbabwe’s tourists are from South Africa and the rest of the region.
“Travellers cannot stand the nightmare on both sides of the (Beitbridge) border,” Chidzidzi said.
There are plans to make it a one-stop border.
Digu Naobeb, the Namibia Tourism Board, lamented as a cumbersome system the imposition of visas by some African governments.
Moseketsi Mpeta, the Head of Tourism and Services at the Industrial Development Corporation, advocated for the application of the dual rate in order to promote domestic tourism.
She noted domestic tourists had emerged as the lifeblood of the sector during various lockdowns imposed by countries to curb the COVID-19.
Officially opening the travel indaba on Tuesday, South Africa Minister of Tourism said Africa continued struggling with numerous barriers to tourism growth.
These, she said, include poor road infrastructure between major cities, limited airlift and stringent immigration regulations.
It is anticipated the African Continental Free Trade Area would spur intra-Africa travel.
– CAJ News