Former President of the Gambia, Sir Dauda Jawara, has stressed the need for regional tourism development inÂ Africa as panacea for peace and development.
Speaking at the 5th Akwaaba Africa Travel Market (AfTM) on Saturday in Lagos,Â the former Gambian president notedÂ that tourism was an important sector for developamentÂ and economic growth and poverty reduction.
According to him, the importance of intra-Africa travelÂ and tourism cannotÂ be over emphasizedÂ becauseÂ there are more than 50 countries in Africa with various attrcations and diversified cultural heritage.
He advised that Africa should not really look outside for tourists and inward for tourism development.
Jawara, who was given the African Travel Legend awardÂ during the fair, said that inter-Africa tourism would enable Africans know each other better, promote peace, and unity among African countries.
â€œThereÂ are more than 50 countries in Africa with various attractions and culture that Africa shouldÂ really not look outside for tourists but inwardÂ for tourism development. I emphasise intra-Africa travel and tourism to all Africans.
We have to know each other better for a good foundation of closer cooperation and integration on the continent,â€ Jawara said.
Also speaking at the fair,Â the Former Secretary- General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, while declaring the fair open said tourism is one of the major foreign earners for countries in Africa and it will not be out of place if it becomes the catalyst for the countryâ€™s economic development and urged the government to give it adequate attention.
Anyaoku also laudedÂ the efforts of Chief Segun Runsewe, Director-General of the Nigeria Tourism DevelopmentÂ Corporation (NTDC) for aggressively promoting and marketing tourism in the country.
Earlier in his speech, Runsewe said that the visit of Jawara to this yearâ€™s edition of AFTM was an endorsementÂ ofÂ the moment and the seriousness of Nigerian tourism.
Runsewe said Akwaaba would in future compete with the leading world travel markets and other international travel events.
Following the successful completion of Gambiaâ€™s sales, Blitz in Nigeria earlier this year, coupled with its efforts to boost the volume of sub-regional tourism, the Gambia Tourism fraternity were well represented at this yearâ€™s Akwaaba Travel Market.
The party was led by the Ag. Director-General, Gambia Tourism Authority, Hadjia Fatou Raji, included government officials and theÂ Gambia Hotel Associationâ€™s members.
According to Hadjia Raji, the Nigerian market has been deemed quite a potential for the Gambia to tap into. This is based on the ever cordial relationship between The Gambia and Nigeria, and the numerous Nigerian affiliated businesses in the Gambia, most notably in the financial sector.
She said:Â â€œThe Gambia has more to offer than investment in the Banking sector only. We hope that our participation in the Akwaaba Travel Market will serve as a useful guide to both potential visitors as well as investors seeking new haven be they: Tourism, Service, Aviation, and Leisure seekersâ€.
Fatou Raji said they are taking steps to develop strong regional tourism and that Akwaaba offers them the platform to do so.
â€œThe Gambia has unique qualities over many other destinations. We have different events to attract tourists to the Gambia like cultural festivals. The International Roots Festival is designed to encourage peoples of African Descent who reside within the Diaspora to further discover, re-affirm and re-embrace their ancestral identity through confronting a physical past.
You may recall the late great American historian by the name of Alex Haley who discovered his â€œRootsâ€ in The Gambian Village of Juffureh; he wrote a book based upon his findings which later became a TV Series known to millions as â€œROOTSâ€.Â Also featured in the series was James Island, an Island in the River Gambia which bears the last remains of a Slave Fort where Africans were held captive before they were forcibly put into slave ships to embark on a journey to hell.
The event was used toÂ showcase The Gambiaâ€™s best in the hospitality industry, a manifestation of the cultural diversity Gambia offers, Ecotourism potential, Fashion design, dance and cuisine.