By Lola Okulo
SOMALIA could give its Eastern Africa neighbors a run for their money in
tourism business if its internal conflict and piracy problems are
contained, a UN report on regional sustainable tourism shows. The report
by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa titled a study on
the challenges and opportunities for tourism development says the
country has the largest coastal belt in Africa, architectural heritage
and beautiful pristine beaches that are great for tourism.
The report which was compiled last year but released officially last
week however notes that war, perceptions of poor governance and Islamic
fundamentalism and piracy have hampered the development of Somalia as a
tourism destination. "Somalia tourism also includes the landmark of
Shanghai old city. Presently controlled by the warlords and the wealthy
businessmen, the city is known for its scenic beauty and the old
architectural heritage," states the report in part. "Another most sought
after sightseeing spot in Somalia tourism is the Sinbusi beach, which is
situated about five kilometers away from the city of Merca."
The report lists some of the key untapped tourism business opportunities
like eco-tourism, culture and cruise; expansion of air and water
transportation; fairly modern and affordable ICT infrastructure.
Relative stability in Somaliland and Puntland have also been listed as
major entry areas in the exploitation of Somalia's tourism business. By
virtue of offering similar tourist attractions, the report recommends a
unified approach to Eastern Africa's tourism development under the
umbrella of a regional integration. It further suggests the development
of an Eastern Africa tourism master plan.
Adoption of an open skies policy in which even low budget airlines can
easily operate flights within the region's countries and adoption of a
single tourist visa have also been proposed to drive growth for the
sector. "This (single tourist visa) approach will enable free movement
of tourists within the region. This is expected to be beneficial to new
destinations in East Africa as they could leverage on the markets of the
more mature destinations," the report says.
Kenya which mostly markets itself as a safari and beach destination has
faced fierce competition from its East African neighbors Tanzania,
Uganda and Rwanda as a result of some cases of insecurity. Tanzania and
Uganda were even named as among the top 45 places to visit in the world
in 2012 whereas Kenya was missing from the ranking despite having almost
similar attractions. The country's war on the al Shabaab which was
sparked by tourist kidnap cases at the Coast has freed several towns in
Somalia from the terror group's raid with reports of normalcy returning
to some parts of Somalia.
Source: The Star