African tourism sector offers SMEs extensive business opportunities
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can tap vast trade opportunities in tourism by producing value-added goods and services and meeting quality standards, according to speakers at the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in Kigali on 17 September.
At a plenary session on ‘Tourism for development: opportunities for SME trade’, panellists discussed best practices in integrating local suppliers into tourism value chains and developing niche offerings such as meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions tourism, as well as adventure, culture and festival-based tourism.
International tourism makes up 30% of global trade in services and is especially valuable for development. It has trickle-down effects, reaching deep into the local economy and multiplying the growth impact from trade.
‘Ultimately everyone is in tourism,’ said H.E. Alain St.Ange, Minister for Tourism and Culture of Seychelles.
Statistics show that SMEs have great growth potential in Africa. According to Márcio Favilla L. de Paula, Executive Director for Competitiveness, External Relations and Partnerships at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Africa’s share of the global domestic tourism market is estimated at 5%. By 2020, it is expected to reach 7%.
Because entry barriers to the tourism value chain are generally low, SMEs have the opportunity to participate by selling to hotels, restaurants, tour operators and other service providers. However, regional governments have to play a role in promoting SME participation by deepening the integration of their economies and making it easier for people to travel across the continent.
‘The East African Community has made commendable steps by ensuring that nationals from member states use a single passport and by giving foreign tourists a single visa for entering Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda,’ said Pascal Lamy, Chairman of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics at the UNWTO. ‘This approach needs to be emulated by other countries.’
Minister St.Ange said that Africans should have the opportunity to travel extensively to become familiar with their own countries. ‘That way, we will all be better placed to market them,’ he said.
On the demand side, Davidson M. Mugisha, Managing Director of Wildlife Tours in Rwanda, said that SMEs need assistance in meeting the high product and service standards set by local buyers in the tourism sector. Rwanda, he noted, has been successful in setting up tourism cooperatives owned and managed by members of the local community.
Read the full summary of the plenary session on ‘Tourism for development: opportunities for SME trade’.
WEDF is organized by ITC, the only United Nations organization with an exclusive focus on assisting SMEs. The event is hosted by the Rwanda Development Board.