By Christopher Ambe and Calesta Nkengasong*Cameroon’s Minister of State for Tourism, Bello Bouba Maigari, Yesterday October 17, opened the 38th Congress of ATA in Buea, during which he told delegates that, Cameroon is a great tourist attraction, begging for exploitation.
|Minister Bello B. Maigari (in white dress) arriving congress hall.|
ATA, acronym for Africa Travel Association, was established as an international travel industry trade association in 1975 “to promote travel, tourism and transport to and within Africa, and to strengthen intra-Africa partnerships “, according congress documents.
ATA whose mission is “to bring the world to Africa and Africa to the world” partners with the African Union Commission (AUC) to promote the sustainable development of tourism to and across Africa. ATA is headquartered in New York-USA, where it is registered as a non-profit association.
The 38th Congress, which is running from October 16-20, at Buea Mountain Hotel, is under the high patronage of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, as well as under the auspices of Cameroon’s Minister of State for Tourism and Leisure, in partnership with ATA.The Congress has as theme “Cameroon, a Destination to Rediscover: Emerging Products and Niche Markets”.
Congress delegates came from countries such as Cameroon, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Canada and the USA.
Also in attendance were the Ugandan Minister of Tourism and Wild Life, Hon. Agnes Akiror Egungu; the Zimbabwean Minister for Tourism ,and Mrs. Estherine Lisinge Fotabong,a senior official of NEPAD(the Development Arm of African Union,AU),who gave a presentation, stressing that African must look for available opportunities to create jobs and adding that tourism is one of such areas. “The moment is now; the time is now. Africa is an emerging market”, Mrs. Lisinge Fotbong remarked.
|Congress Officials at High Table at the opening ceremony|
Opening the congress, Cameroon’s Tourism Minister Bello Bouba Magairi, who was sitting in for the country’s Prime Minister Philemon Yang, said “Thanks to her natural resources, cultural diversity and the political stability she enjoys, Cameroon is a tourist Eldorado”
But he regretted that “in spite of these assets, Cameroon’s rich tourist potential is yet to be fully exploited”.
He called for the transformation of Cameroon’s tourist potential into innovative products- so to sell better in major international markets such as North American markets; this way, he said, “Cameroon will become an emerging destination”
Minister Maigari said the congress is holding at a time when tourism is ranked the biggest world industry, noting that Cameroon has succeeded in securing a major position among tourist destination in Africa.
The Cameroonian minister disclosed: “Cameroon recorded a landmark score of 572,000 international tourists in 2010.This figure has kept on increasing every year.Today, performance indicators show that Cameroon has reached more than 700,000 international tourists, thus confirming its status of tourist destination in accordance with the criteria of the World Tourism Organization”
Noting that Cameroon has good relationship with ATA, Minister Maigari said the former was admitted into ATA in 1986. He recalled that Cameroon hosted the 12th Congress of ATA in 1987 and the 5th Symposium on Ecotourism, Trade and Investment in November 2001 and then the 29th Congress in May 2004.
He pointed out that Cameroon as ATA Board member has “carried out several promotion tours of the Cameroon destination in the US with the support of ATA”The Minister said Cameroon is determined to boost tourist industry, adding that the laws governing tourist activities and the tourism development strategy are under review and that, a code of investment incentives has been enacted.
In order to strengthen Cameroon’s position in the American tourist market, Minister Maigari said the country has set up specific objectives viz: Make the tourist products of Cameroon known to the Americans; Increase both public and private investments in the tourist sector and to develop partnership s between Cameroonian and the American stakeholders
He concluded his opening speech by calling on the congress to adopt only resolutions that would foster “the development and promotion of tourism in our various countries, in a significant and sustainable manner”
Taking the floor, Edward J. Bergman, Executive Director of ATA said the choice of Buea for the congress is help expose Cameroon to the international tourism industry in order that there can be an increase flow of tourists across the world to Cameroon. He said the congress has offered Cameroon the opportunity to share her rich tourism potentials and attractions.
|Delegates in family picture with Minister Maigari and ATA officials|
Briefing the press after the opening ceremony, Mr. Bergman admitted that Cameroon has great potentials, but noted that “a major challenge remains infrastructure. “ Infrastructure is not only the responsibility of tourism. Infrastructure is the responsibility of the entire society,” he said
He hoped that Cameroon would continue to develop and promote its tourism infrastructure and focus also on e tourism education and training.
Earlier in his welcome address, Mosoko Edward, Deputy Mayor of Buea, gave a brief presentation of Buea and its tourist attractions such as Mount Cameroon-the highest peak in West/Central Africa; he said the town has about 200,000 residents with the Bakweri people being the natives.
The mayor said tourism is the engine of growth, emphasizing that if Africa must become an emerging continent, then the role of ATA is of great significance.The opening ceremony was graced by cultural dances from Cameroon’s diverse ethnic groupings.
(*Calesta Nkengasong is a journalism intern from the University of Buea-Cameroon)