Delegates from around the globe, including more than twenty African countries, attended the Africa Travel Association’s sixth annual U.S.-Africa Tourism Seminar (USATS), which was the most successful ATA industry event staged in the U.S. to date.
The USATS, held on Friday, March 8 in Washington, DC, promoted the theme, “Marketing Destination Africa 2020” and highlighted new marketing strategies, tools and emerging trends with presentations from top industry experts, including the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Cynthia Akuetteh and David Pavelko, Head of Industry, Travel for Google. It also emphasized the continent’s impressive economic growth and prospects for US-Africa business exchange and development.
In her opening remarks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Cynthia Akuetteh, provided an update on U.S.-Africa relations in President Barack Obama’s second term. She spoke about the important role Africa is primed to play in the “security and prosperity of the international community “and the need for the USA to take a comprehensive and committed approach to investment and development opportunities across Africa. Quoting Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, she said, “There is no doubt in my mind that Africa is rising, that Africa is on the move, that progress is being made in all sectors. Africa is moving forward.”
David Pavelko, Head of Industry, Travel, Google, delivered the keynote, which centered on the message that “digital can provide a canvas for storytelling.” “For the African story to capture an audience effectively it needs to be grounded in the authentic and the real; a true connection with the continent is what will sell it,” he said. “Destination Africa and the countries within can market themselves successfully if tourism stakeholders know how to take advantage of the trends in digital in a meaningful way. Pavelko added, “The U.S. market is one that cherishes uniqueness and this provides the perfect opportunity on which Africa can capitalize. Africa has much more to offer than just the safari and the use of digital and mobile applications can help bring the “bucket list” destination to life.”
The sixth annual US-Africa Seminar featured speakers and representatives from a who’s who in the U.S. and African travel categories including Affluent Hospitality, AfroPop Worldwide, Arik Air, Air Promotions Group, Botswana Tourist Board, Corporate Council on Africa, Delta Air Lines, Expedia, Group IST, Namibia Tourist Board. National Baptist Convention, National Tour Association (NTA), Onyx Global Marketing, South African Airways, Sparkloft Media, Strategy XXI Partners, The Bradford Group, US Department of the Interior, Wildlife Conservation Society, Office of Travel & Tourism Industries at the US Department of Commerce and the Washington DC, Travel & Adventure Show. Participating African tourism ministers included Cameroon’s Hon. Bello Bouba Maigari, Minister of State, Ministry of Tourism and Leisure and Zimbabwe’s Hon. Walter Mzembi, Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Ind! ustries and current ATA President.
Wrapping up the day, both Lisa Simon, President of the National Tour Association (NTA) and Ron Erdmann, Deputy Director of the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries for the International Trade Administration at the US Department of Commerce, said the outlook for travel to Africa from the U.S. was bright. Erdmann pointed out that South Atlantic states provide the highest percentage of travelers to the continent. He also said that along with niche travel markets, Africa should focus on these areas of tourist origin when packaging products with group needs in mind. Also, while US arrivals to Africa declined slightly, spending by U.S. travelers to Africa has increased every year, up 150% from 2003.
Following the US spotlight, ATA and NTA renewed their commitment to increasing travel to Africa in a signing ceremony at the conclusion of the seminar. Lisa Simon, NTA President, and Edward Bergman, ATA Executive Director, signed a memorandum of understanding that outlines a number of ways that the two associations will interact and work together.
The 2013 ATA seminar was organized in cooperation with the African Union Mission to the USA and the Washington, D.C. Travel & Adventure Show®. Sponsors included Arik Air, Delta Air Lines, Expedia, King & Spalding, Ministry of Tourism and Leisure of Cameroon, Onyx Global Marketing, South African Airways, South African Tourism (SAT) and Sparkloft Media.
At an evening reception on Thursday, March 7, seminar attendees learned about Cameroon as a tourism destination and the site for ATA’s 38th Annual World Congress, to be held from May 29 to June 3, 2013. The networking event was held at the law offices of King & Spalding and was attended by an impressive group of kings – called fons – in from villages across Cameroon. The Ambassador to the USA from Cameroon also participated in the event.
Photo Credit: Rebecca Arnold