12 July 2006 The United Nations tourism agency has teamed up with Microsoft to use information technology to improve the industry’s competitiveness and quality in developing countries, especially in Africa which at present accounts for only 4 per cent of international tourism.
“This agreement is a huge leap forward for tourism… job creation, export income and capacity building for the world’s poorest countries - especially in Africa where it will be integrated into our programmes to alleviate poverty through sustainable tourism,” UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General Francesco Frangialli said.
The agreement, announced yesterday at the Global Leaders Forum for Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, has two immediate projects in hand involving the creation new information portals.
The first, called “Windows on Africa” and developed by UNWTO and the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), will showcase the continent in a globally competitive way. It will be able to be replicated at the national and local levels and link to visitor centres, museums, and libraries. Ultimately, it will even provide real-time advice via mobile devices with destination specific data.
The second portal, supporting UNWTO’s Emergency Response System, will collate information on catastrophes affecting tourism, providing a framework for improved industry response by bringing together public and sector-specific data and incorporating tools for information sharing and improved messaging.
It will help tourism destinations and stakeholders to respond more rapidly and effectively in emergencies and help recovery programmes. It will be used initially to strengthen industry preparedness for a potential bird flu pandemic.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates cited the public/private partnership with UNWTO as the kind of implementing programme that will help over 40 million people in Africa drive toward future economic growth. “Microsoft wants to play a hands-on role to help countries and entire regions develop their knowledge-based economy, create jobs, spur growth and enable innovation,” he said.
“We can do this by providing easy and affordable access to technology and helping our partners build robust local software economies,” he added.
In another development, UNWTO reported that an estimated $682 billion was spent abroad by tourists in 2005, up $49 billion or 3.4 per cent on the previous year, pushing spending by tourists abroad to an average of more than $2 billion a day when transport costs of $130 billion are factored in - some 6 per cent of global export of all goods and services.
Africa’s increase over the previous years was 7.8 per cent, which Mr. Frangialli hailed as “a significant success story.”