Black Meetings and Tourism

Sep/Oct 2011

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Page 41 of 72

THE AFRICA TRAVEL ASSOCIATION, SENEGAL AND BEYOND BY MATT THOMAS W hen the Honorable Souley- mane Ndéné Ndiaye, prime minister of Senegal, opened the Africa Travel Association's (ATA) 36thAnnualCongress he claimed it to be the dawn of a new era in promoting Destination Senegal in the global mar- ketplace and the advancement of Africa's travel and tourism industry. Global tourismleaders and professionals gathered at ATA's annual Congress to shape an agenda for Africa's growing travel industry. ATA's signature event inAfrica, held May 25-29, 2011 in Dakar, provided an outstanding opportunity for 300 travel professionals from around the world to learn, touch, taste and experience the excitement of Africa in Senegal, one of Africa's top tourismdestinations. Senegal is a country south of the Senegal River in westernAfrican bound by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania to the north,Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea Bissau to the south. Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, is located on the CapeVerde Peninsula, on the country'sAtlantic coast. Its posi- tion on thewestern edge ofAfricamakes it the western mostAfrican country and an advantageous arrival and departure point for tours from the U.S., Canada, Central and SouthAmerica,andEurope. Edward Bergman, executive director of the Africa Travel Association, stated "ATA is committed to helping profes- sionals serving tourists to, from and across Africa develop and expand their reach, products and services. We make this happen by building public-private partnerships for tourism to Africa and creating business development, learning and networking opportunities for the industry." According to the Honorable Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie,min- ister ofTourismand Culture for the Republic of The Gambia and presi- dent of the ATA, "Travel within and to Africa has been getting better and better, and there is no better time to travel to Africa than the present." Afri- can airlines such as South African Air- ways and Arik International are serving major metropolitan areas in both the U.S. and Europe. Delta Airlines has grown from 22 weekly departures to and from Africa in the summer of 2007 to nearly 80 roundtrips a week in summer 2011. Delta's African destinations include Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana; Abuja, Nigeria; Johan-nesburg, South Africa; Lagos, Nigeria and Monrovia, Liberia. According to Minister Jobe-Njie, "Africa's rich continent offers tremen- dous tourism experiences as vast as its 53 territories with diverse cultures, rich her- itage, culinary variety and heart warming hospitality!" She believes it's for these reasons that travel to Africa grew bey- ond forecasts in 2009 and 2010. With its mission of strengthening partnerships between African nations and the travel trade industry throughout globe, ATA conducts its highest profile event in the U.S. in New York every September, in parallel to the United Nations General Assembly meetings. ATA's 6th Annual Presidential Forum on Tourism, co-hosted by New York University's Africa House, will be held Wednesday, September 20, 2011. This one-day event offers Africa's leaders an important opportunity to speak about how travel and tourism contributes to a country's economic agenda and develop- ment. At the 2010 Forum, the 10 African leaders that attended were from the AUC, Benin, Burundi, Ghana, The Gambia, Liberia, Malawi, Morocco, Tanzania and the World Bank. These leaders highlighted the current chal- lenges facing their tourism growth and the future prospects each country faces in promoting the tourist sector. With its headquarters in New York, the ATA has partnered with the African Union Commission (AUC) to promote the sustainable development of tourism to and across Africa. At the 36th Annual ATA Congress, Dr. Elham M.S. Ibrahim expressed her appreciation for the role that the ATA has played in improving and strengthening the travel industry in Africa. "The AUC, leading Africa integra- tion, reiterates its readiness to work with ATA and its stakeholders in order to speed up the development of this impor- tant industry. That's why the AUC and ATA have signed a Memo-randum of Understanding dedicated to promoting the sustainable development of tourism throughout Africa." Whether exploring the catacombs beneath Alexandria in Egypt, tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda, paddling along the Zambezi River or perusing the arts and crafts shops of Dakar, trav- el to Africa is a must for everyone's bucket list. Black Meetings & Tourism September/October 2011: 41

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