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Strengthening the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises in the tourism sector of six developing countries in the Economic Community of West African States subregion

Background:

The tourism sector is of strategic importance to developing countries, capable of providing a country with a major source of employment, income and foreign-exchange earnings. The tourism sector also facilitates the development of entrepreneurship, particularly in terms of small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as providing an opportunity for sustainable economic diversification. By combining information and communications technology (ICT) as a tool for development and tourism, the number one sector worldwide – it will be possible to bring forward growing economic opportunities for small and local actors in the tourism sector. Being an information-intensive industry, tourism should be supported by competitive collaboration information technology schemes that could be addressed through the design of innovative networking models. This would allow local stakeholders to better organize and promote themselves.

The project will address the aforementioned issues through participative e-tourism strategies and by capacity-building and network-oriented activities, which should integrate all stakeholders in local empowerment and the dissemination and sharing of knowledge. 6 beneficiary countries will be selected from the ECOWAS subregion of Africa. The main target users of the project are the government authorities responsible for designing and implementing the national e-strategy in this field and tourism-related institutions; small and medium-sized enterprises; and industry and sector associations and organizations, including tourist operators in the beneficiary countries.

The project will be headed by UNCTAD, in collaboration with ECA. The project will seek to cooperate with relevant international organisations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as with academic and other institutions.

Objective:

To contribute to local empowerment, inclusion and competitiveness of tourism stakeholders, through capacity-building and development activities, by innovative ICT-driven networking and models for the management and sharing of knowledge.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Increased understanding of decision-makers (at public and private levels) about the positive externalities of ICT tools for small and medium-sized tourism enterprises, through the design of a model of a knowledge management system and coherent replicable training material for the benefit of all tourism stakeholders
  • Increased capacity and skills of the beneficiary tourism destination countries in the preparation and implementation of innovative business models and ICT-related solutions, to enhance their competitiveness and allow them to add value to their economy.
  • Improved competitiveness of tourism stakeholders by fostering of competitive collaboration at the national and regional levels, through an increase of public and private sector partnerships.

Implementation status:

As from March 2009, 6 high-level briefing sessions and 6 national capacity building workshops have been conducted in each of the targeted countries. Additionally, since 2010, the intervention scheme includes an additional specific IT module on the UNCTAD Free Open Source System (FOSS) Data Collector. Four 4 IT workshops have been carried out in 2010 leading the participants to better understand and grasp the benefits of ICTs for destinations, to develop the notion and spirit of public-private partnerships around ICTs, to strengthen local knowledge of best practices in promoting, positioning and marketing destinations on the web and to increase the capacity of the audience to choose the most relevant management models and the most recent ICT applications available.

Awareness is mainly being raised through papers/spots on local newspapers and TV during preparatory and briefing missions as well as during seminars. Workshops reports have been distributed to national authorities, missions in Geneva, and respective UNDP representations in the field, as well as potential fund donors, when needed.A study on ICT and Tourism in Mauritania has been finalized and distributed to national authorities.