The Africa Travel Association, a New York nonprofit promoting tourism to Africa and intra-Africa travel and partnership, holds its second annual U.S.-Africa Seminar in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19–20.
The two-day event, co-sponsored by Adventures in Travel Expo, will highlight sport and adventure tourism as a growing business sector with myriad investment opportunities and, for the first time, the economic, entrepreneurial and cultural role of the African Diaspora in boosting the continent’s tourism industry.
“African immigrants are the best to speak positively about African destinations and to break the usual negative focus on Africa,” Bergman says. “They know their country better than anyone else.”
In addition to tourism officials and executives, panelists include representatives from South Africa, host of the soccer’s 2010 World Cup; U.S. sports organizations, such as the National Basketball Association; sports celebrities of African origin; and members of the sport and Diaspora media. “Because of [President Barack] Obama and his African roots, tourism to Africa is going to increase,” he says. “American tourists usually come back from Africa completely and positively surprised,” says Edward Bergman, the ATA’s executive director.
With its huge potential to create jobs and support entrepreneurship and small businesses, tourism is key to Africa’s economic development. Though in its early stages, sport and adventure tourism is a fast growing segment of the industry. By diversifying the reasons why people go to Africa and showing that there is more to tourism that safaris, tourism will grow exponentially, Bergman contends.
He notes that sport infrastructures are growing all over the continent. As a result, African countries can compete to host international sport events, such as the 2010 World Cup and the African Cup of Nations, further boosting tourism and financial and other investment opportunities.