2017 ATA World Tourism Conference
ATA hosted the 41st Annual World Tourism Conference in Kigali, Rwanda from August 28-31, 2017. The conference, which was developed to promote tourism as an engine for economic growth across Africa, was attended by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, who delivered the keynote address.
Hosted in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), The 41st Annual World Tourism Conference attracted a select group of public and private stakeholders in the African tourism sector including ministers of tourism, senior officials of national tourism boards from across the continent, airlines, hotels, travel agents and tour operators, as well digital platforms and service providers in the tourism industry such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, MasterCard, Tastemakers Africa, Facebook, Uber, Afro Tourism, Tourvest, and Marriott International.
In addition to President Kagame, other notable guests included Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary-General, Ms. Clare Akamanzi, CEO of RDB and the United States Ambassador to Rwanda, Amb. Erica Barks Ruggles.
“Rwanda, like other countries on the continent, is keen to convert our favourable demographics into economic growth and prosperity,” said President Kagame in his keynote address. “The services sector – in particular, tourism – provides some of the best opportunities.”
Tourism is already doing well in Rwanda and the country is a strong example of how tourism can boost economic growth. The tourism sector is the country’s largest foreign exchange earner and Rwanda has liberalized its visa policies, which has led to a huge growth in tourists especially from Africa. The government is also investing heavily in infrastructure including a new airport to support a growing number of tourists. President Kagame did note however, that more could still be done to grow Rwandan tourism especially by harnessing technology and the new opportunities technological innovation can bring.
“This conference is particularly important to us, because tourism plays a key role in Rwanda’s economy,” said Ms. Clare Akamanzi, CEO of RDB, who welcomed attendees to Rwanda. According to Ms. Akamanzi, Rwanda’s tourism receipts doubled between 2010 and 2016 to more than USD $400 million.
CCA President and CEO, Ms. Florie Liser focused on the unique role ATA and CCA will play in the sector’s development “Under CCA’s new vision and leadership, I would like to affirm our commitment to continuing the promotion of sustainable development of tourism to and within Africa through new initiatives,” said Ms. Liser. One of those initiatives, ATAcademy, is a platform to support capacity building and inclusive growth for tourism professionals on the continent. The second initiative, ATA Connex, will focus on increasing investments in tourism through facilitated business-to-business and business-to-government linkages.
As part of the ATAcademy initiative, ATA hosted a series of capacity building sessions at the conference. Travel agents and tour operators attended sessions focused on North American travelers and on the tourism market and sustainability. “The United States - we are pleased to say - accounts for the single largest source of tourism in Rwanda as well as the largest single bilateral foreign direct investment country,” said U.S. Ambassador Erica Barks Ruggles.
UNCTAD Secretary-General, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, shared highlights of the recent UNCTAD report on African tourism, Economic Development in Africa Report 2017: Tourism for Transformative and Inclusive Growth. “The most startling and interesting discovery in our study is that by far, the fastest growing tourism in Africa is intra-African tourism,” said Dr, Kituyi. “Intra-African tourism is 12 months a year.” Over the last 10 years, intra-African tourism has grown from 34 percent to 44 percent of total African tourism revenues and is projected to be more than 50 percent in the next 10 years. Dr. Kituyi also emphasized a need to change Africa’s image perception and the importance of peace and security for tourism to thrive.
In less than 15 years, Africa’s travel and hospitality industries have quadrupled in size, and the continent remains one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, second only to Southeast Asia. The 41st World Tourism Conference featured more than 20 in-depth plenaries and breakout sessions with industry experts and professionals to discuss the latest trends and insights in African tourism and how best to grow the continent’s market share.
This year was the first time ATA’s Tourism Conference was hosted in Rwanda. The conference aligned with Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony, a national celebration creating awareness of the country's efforts to protect the jewel of Rwanda’s tourism crown: the mountain gorillas and their habitat.
Snapshot of 41st Annual World Tourism Conference Attendees
African Wildlife Foundation
AfroTourism West Africa Limited
Akagera Management Company
Akagera National Park
Arbor Travel Associates, Inc.
Azizi Life Experiences Ltd
Brand Leadership Group
Business Tourism Company
Business Traveler Magazine
Carnegie Mellon University
Direct Pay Online Group
DLR Group Africa
East Africa Tourism Platform
Embassy Suites & Tours Ltd.
Flora Travel and Tours Co. Ltd.
Global Linkages, Inc.
Go Addis Tours & Go Kigali Tours
Heritage Link Brands
International Air Transport Association (IATA)
International Tours & Travel (ITT)
International Travel Agency
National Basketball Association (NBA)
Oh The People You Meet (OTPYM)
Optimum African Experience
Production Travel & Tours
Radisson Blu Kigali
Ramada Resort Dar es Salaam
Reed Exhibitions (WTM Africa)
Rwanda AFD Village
Rwanda Cinema Center
Rwanda Eco Tours
SEEZA Destination Network
South African Airways
Spielworks Media Ltd
The Bradford Group
The Business Tourism Company: Africa
The MasterCard Foundation
Trips by Greg LLC
University of the Witwatersrand
Botswana Tourism Organisation
Cape Town & Western Cape Tourism, Trade & Investment (WESGRO)
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council
East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP)
Guinea National Tourist Office
Kenya Tourism Board
Ministry of Economy & Employment, Cabo Verde
Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia
Ministry of Tourism & Cultural Affairs, Sierra Leone
Ministry of Tourism, South Africa
Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities & Wildlife, Sudan
Ministry of Tourism & Hospitality Industry, Zimbabwe
Ministry of Tourism & Arts, Zambia
National Agency for the Heritage and Tourism of Benin of the Presidency of Benin
New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)
Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA)
Rwanda Development Board
Sierra Leone National Tourism Board
South Africa Tourism
Uganda Tourism Board
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
United States Embassy
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority