On November 16, 2023, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hosted a groundbreaking workshop in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, bringing together leading tourism and travel experts from 20 African countries.
The event, titled “Communications, Media and Tourism Training Workshop,” was a first of its kind in Africa, focusing on enhancing tourism communications and emphasizing the sector’s role as a key driver of development.
The three-day workshop, held from November 13-15, aimed to integrate tourism into mainstream conversations, addressing both the opportunities and challenges faced by communities, destinations, and the African region as a whole. This initiative comes at a time when the importance of tourism is increasingly recognized beyond the sector itself.
The workshop adopted a hands-on approach, aligning with UNWTO’s philosophy of “learning by doing.” The first day featured visits to three significant case studies around Victoria Falls, each highlighting different aspects of tourism:
Tourism for Wildlife Conservation: Participants visited the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, witnessing community-led conservation efforts and understanding the role of tourism in wildlife protection.
Tourism for Development: Engagements with leaders and members of Umuzi Village provided insights into the challenges small destinations face, especially in terms of outreach, communications, and promotion.
Tourism for Nature: A trip to the rainforest inside Victoria Falls National Park showcased how tourism supports ecosystem preservation, though it also highlighted the sector’s untapped potential.
These field trips set the stage for the subsequent interactive sessions and workshops. The 50 participants, representing various roles in communications, destination management, and tourism governance, tackled key challenges in tourism communication: pitching to the media, building media relations, and focusing narratives on tourism for development.
The workshop featured presentations from UNWTO experts, media professionals (including representatives from Meta, Channels TV, and TraveMedia Ireland), and top content creators. Discussions centered on placing tourism in mainstream media, leveraging social media, working effectively with media, and communicating tourism’s impact on culture, heritage, and communities.
Participants worked on presenting solutions to the outlined challenges, with discussions informed by diverse backgrounds and perspectives. These conversations highlighted common goals and knowledge gaps, with UNWTO ready to offer further media training.
The workshop also delved into crisis communications, using the expertise of participants and field trip examples to explore proactive strategies and readiness in facing challenges.
This UNWTO workshop marks a significant step in redefining tourism communications in Africa, aiming to elevate the sector’s profile in media and public discourse, and ultimately, to foster sustainable growth and development through tourism.