Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers responsible for Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism have approved the Boundless Southern Africa Feasibility Study Report and the Roadmap for hosting the programme within regional structures.
This came out of the Ministers’ Extraordinary Session held through video-conferencing on 23rd November 2021 to review progress in implementing the decisions the Ministers took at their ordinary virtual meeting on 18th June 2021, namely to deliberate on the Boundless Southern Africa Programme, and to be appraised on developments regarding the implementation of Decisions of SADC Council of Ministers regarding the winding-up of the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA).
The meeting was attended by 58 delegates from 14 SADC Member States and was presided over by the Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources of the Republic of Malawi, Honourable Nancy Tembo, who is Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers Responsible for Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism.The meeting was Co-chaired by Honourable Dr Michael Bizwick Usi, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife.
The Boundless Southern Africa Feasibility Study addresses the role and sustainability of Boundless Southern Africa Programme to implement the SADC Tourism Programme 2020-2030. This is in order to adequately promote the development of tourism within the SADC Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) to strengthen the conservation of natural resources, and simultaneously contribute to regional economic development, including the livelihoods of local communities.
Boundless Southern Africa is a regional marketing and investment promotion initiative that supports and facilitates sustainable tourism development in the SADC TFCAs. The SADC Tourism Programme 2020-2030 serves as a roadmap to guide and coordinate the development of a sustainable tourism industry in the Region and to facilitate the removal of barriers to tourism development and growth.
Hon. Tembo said the SADC Tourism Programme 2020-2030 provides a pathway for a quick economic recovery process following the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said some of the preventive measures that countries took as one way of containing the pandemic led to closure and slowdown of tourism businesses and those businesses depending on tourism, which resulted in many job losses and livelihoods.
The Minister, nevertheless, expressed hope that some of the measures that countries took to contain the pandemic, including the rolling out of the vaccines in both the tourist source and host countries, will assist the recovery of the tourism sector.
The Ministers noted the progress made in the implementation of the Decisions of the Council of Ministers in addressing the winding-up of RETOSA and provided guidance to fast-track this process to its conclusion to allow the Region to fully focus on implementing the SADC Tourism Programme 2020-2030.
SADC Deputy Executive Secretary for Reginal Integration, Dr. Thembinkosi Mhlongo, reflected on the impact of COVID-19 in the tourism industry and financial hardships facing the Region as a result. He said that due to the pandemic, most of the tourism businesses will continue to endure slow economic recovery as international, regional and domestic travel markets remain subdued due travel restrictions and related challenges.
Dr Mhlongo called for concerted efforts by all Member States to come up with interventions and appropriate recovery measures to address these challenges and alleviate the Region’s already stressed economies, by among others fast-tracking implementation of the SADC Tourism Programme 2020-2030, and promoting the development and strengthening of tourism within the TFCAs through the Boundless Southern Africa.