Lonely Christmas In Santa’s Homeland As Tourists Stay Away

The Arctic Snow Hotel is pictured on December 17, 2020 in Rovaniemi. – In Finland’s snowy far north, international visitors normally flood the Santa Claus Village amusement park, in search of reindeer rides, snow castles and a meeting with the jolly, red figure himself. (Photo by Sam KINGSLEY / AFP)

 

In Finland’s snowy far north, international visitors normally flood the Santa Claus Village amusement park, in search of reindeer rides, snow castles and a meeting with the jolly man himself.

Under the pandemic travel restrictions, however, crowds in the Lapland town of Rovaniemi have dwindled to just a trickle and the joyful winter wonderland feels ghostly and abandoned.

“It’s been an exceptional and difficult year,” Santa tells AFP from behind a plexiglass screen installed in his grotto, adding that his visitors have appreciated being able to forget a tough year and enjoy the Christmas cheer.

Those who can’t make it to Lapland can still purchase a remote one-on-one with Santa, at 79 euros ($97) for five minutes, and the service has proven popular.

“People this year have most of all asked me for happiness, health and then a bit more happiness,” although the children still want toys and games, he says.

“Santa actually had time to chat!” Andrea Karjalainen, on a short break to Rovaniemi from southern Finland with her family, tells AFP.

“You would expect that there are thousands of people now, but we’re more or less alone,” adds Teppo, her partner.

– Livelihoods in danger –

Since the 1980s, tourism chiefs have marketed the Arctic Circle town of Rovaniemi as the “real” home of Santa Claus, helping Finnish Lapland attract a record 2.9 million overnight stays last year, especially from Europe and Asia.

This year, however, visits have plummeted to half a million, most from early 2020 before the virus hit.

“The local livelihoods are really in danger,” Sanna Karkkainen, CEO of Visit Rovaniemi, tells AFP.

“We’ve already got news of the first bankruptcies and there’s going to be more.”

Santa and his elf, Vanilla, read letters separated by a plexiglass screen to slow the spread of coronavirus, on December 17, 2020. (Photo by Sam KINGSLEY / AFP)

 

With Finland effectively shut off to international tourists, the impact on Lapland has been stark: 5,000 jobs and 700 million euros in revenue have already been lost, a drop of up to 70 percent, Karkkainen says.

Many businesses have tried to stay open, such as the family-run Husky Park, whose current footfall is nothing like the normal 600 international visitors a day.

“But we’ve been positively surprised that there have been home-grown tourists, and the snow here has started bringing people in the south to Lapland,” chief of operations Kristian Erkkila tells AFP over the noise of 90 huskies barking.

Behind him, a Finnish family is being helped into a sled, lined with warm reindeer fur, which is then pulled away by twelve huskies following the shouted commands of the musher.

“We’re delighted to welcome everyone, but the whole time we’re thinking what we need to do differently to be able to survive next summer,” Erkkila says, but adds that the vaccine provides “some light at the end of the tunnel”.

– Waiting for decisions –

At the nearby Santa Park underground theme park, owners Ilkka and Katja Lantinen have opted to cut their losses and reopen in winter 2021.

Their staff of 400 seasonal and permanent workers has been slashed to just 36.

That number will now be cut even further as the pair’s luxury hotel, the Arctic Treehouse, will also close for the season after the government’s promised lifting of travel restrictions did not materialise.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Atmosphere Tense For UK Passengers Held At German Airports

“We had the team in, everybody was in really high spirits about opening the season,” Ilkka tells AFP.

“It seems our government is only capable of making decisions one month at a time. Unfortunately, we can’t live like that,” Lantinen says.

Although the Lantinens’ takings are down 98 percent this year, winter 2021 bookings are “looking really good,” assuming that the virus situation allows.

– ‘Stressing doesn’t help’ –

Half an hour away on the shore of a frozen lake, Ville Haavikko and his team are putting the final touches to the Arctic Snow Hotel, using chainsaws to carve steps and stacking thick blocks of clear ice into a wall.

“We’ve tried to keep the business running and people at work because we have permanent employees with their own families and mortgages,” Haavikko tells AFP.

Usually there would be “hundreds of customers every day” who also stay in the glass igloos hoping to glimpse the northern lights.

But all rooms are currently empty and only a handful of bookings await.

With only the domestic market available they designed a half-size snow hotel with 11 rooms — each carved with intricate ice sculptures on themes ranging from Arctic forest to circus.

Back at his grotto, Santa and his elf, Vanilla, are reading through some of the many thousands of Christmas wishlists that, despite the pandemic, children around the world have sent him.

Won’t the border closures make it difficult to deliver all those presents?

“I have brilliant news for you,” Santa laughs, “Christmas is happening this year too.”

“So remember to be good, and enjoy it safely.”

Finland Relaxes COVID-19 Rules To Boost Tourism

FILE PHOTO: Medical personnel takes test samples for the COVID-19 coronavirus from drivers at a coronavirus testing station in Salo, Southern Finland on August 18, 2020. (Photo by Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva / AFP) / Finland OUT

 

Finland will allow holidaymakers to visit the country for up to three days in order to help the struggling tourist industry, ministers announced on Friday. 

Under the new measures, travel restrictions will be eased to allow visitors from Germany, Sweden, and other countries with fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past fortnight.

Arrivals from countries with higher levels of infection, such as France and the UK, will also be admitted without quarantine requirements if they are traveling with a charter flight or organised tour group and if their stay does not exceed 72 hours.

In recent years tourist numbers in Lapland, in Finland’s far north, have grown to record levels.

Among three million overnight stays in 2018, British tourists were the largest group.

Husky sled rides, seeing the Northern Lights and a visit to the “real” Santa’s grotto are among the most popular attractions.

The Finnish government has come under heavy pressure to ease travel restrictions to help businesses in Lapland, where tourism generated one billion euros ($1.1 billion) of revenue in 2018 according to the area’s regional council.

Currently, Finland’s tight border restrictions ban arrivals from all but a handful of EU countries in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Economic Affairs Minister Mika Lintila told a press conference on Friday that the new policy “will bring clarity to the business and tourism sectors.”

“The decision takes into account safety and the needs of business.”

An official told reporters the health ministry had been “critical” of the idea of loosening border restrictions.

But “these decisions have been made based on broad cabinet discussions,” health ministry strategic director Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki said.

The country of 5.5 million has registered 337 COVID-related deaths and around 8,500 cases, though there has been an uptick in infections after the summer.

AFP

Sanwo-Olu Approves N1bn Seed Capital For Investment In Tourism

A file photo of Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
A file photo of Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

 

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has approved one billion naira seed capital for investment in tourism.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, who made the announcement on Wednesday said the fund will drive new growth in hospitality business.

He said the investment was required to bolster the hospitality sector by providing key operators in tourism business with soft loans to boost their capacity in driving growth.

The initiative, Sanwo-Olu observed, is necessary to position the tourism business as a new frontier for job creation and economic prosperity in the post-Coronavirus era.

The seed capital will be domiciled in the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), the Governor said, adding that the funds will be made available specifically to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) operators in the sector.

The Governor noted the state would also be collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to further create access for funds to support the hospitality business.

The event with the theme: “BOS Meets Business, was attended by the captains of industry, manufacturers, and members of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).

Governor Sanwo-Olu disclosed that the state had started the first phase of the 6,000km optical fibre being laid across Lagos, with the aim of providing technological infrastructure to support MSMEs.

He said the state had continued to strengthen its Ease of Doing Business policies to drive private investment and economic growth. This, he said, is being made possible by the digitisation of business registration and asset acquisition processes, which, he said, removed administrative bottlenecks.

“We have just given approval for N1 billion support that will be given out through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund to support the hospitality business in the State. The beneficiaries of this fund will go through screening in line with the requirement of the agency. We are making this investment because of the huge potential for job creation and inclusive growth this sector can bring about.

“We will be working with the CBN for more funding to fully develop the potential of our tourism sector. This effort is being completed with the rolling out of 3,000 km optical fibre across the State to provide technological infrastructure for the MSMEs whose operations would depend on fast Internet networks to drive their businesses.”

With Lagos’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) valued at $130 billion and over three million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which make the State the fourth wealthiest city in Africa, Sanwo-Olu said it was time for the State to strengthen its economy with right policies for accelerated growth and prosperity.

The Governor noted that there will be a review of the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in the State by the Federal Government in response to requests by businesses across the State, noting that the ongoing rehabilitation of major bridges and roads had impacted business activities in the State.

According to him, the repeal of 2018 laws on Land Use Charge was to further create incentives for more growth in the corporate sector, stressing that the new Land Use laws had addressed controversial provisions and remove ambiguity in the levies paid by companies in Lagos.

The Governor granted a three-year waiver on penalty for those that defaulted the payment of land use charge from 2017. He also offered a 25 per cent discount for those who make early payment of the Land Use.

He said: “We are granting a waiver of three years in late payment, which covers 2017, 2018 and 2019. We are also giving 25 per cent special discount on early payment. By this, we have achieved a 48 per cent reduction for businesses in chargeable rates by repealing the 2018 Land Use Laws.

“We are taking these steps to show that we are not being insensitive to the plight of businesses and residents, especially in this period of the pandemic that has slowed down activities. We have been doing everything possible to make sure businesses are not choked by taxes.”

Sanwo-Olu told the business leaders and MSMEs operators to see his administration as a “real partner” in driving growth. He said the Government would continue to introduce more incentives to strengthen its partnership with the private sector to keep Lagos economy on the path of growth.

Representatives of corporate organisations praised the Governor for the reviews of the Land Use Laws. They, however, called for harmonisation of taxes and levies payable to the Government.

Deputy President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Chief Olawale Cole, hailed the State Government for the three-month moratorium given to MSMEs, noting that the incentive would stimulate more commitment in the sector.

Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Corporative, Dr. Lola Akande, noted that Lagos Government had taken steps since the last meeting with the Organised Private Sector to sustain the momentum of growth.

She said: “We recognise that creating an enabling business environment is the key to job creation, poverty eradication, and growth of the State economy. Lagos State is positioned to support businesses and the industrial sector to maximise their potential for greater contribution to the State’s GDP.”

Tourism Faces Minimum $1.2-Trillion Hit From Coronavirus – UN

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 04, 2018 The “Palais des Nations”, which houses the United Nations Offices, is seen at the end of the flag-lined front lawn in Geneva. – The United Nations said on June 18, 2020, it was resuming resettlement travel for refugees, which was suspended in March due to the coronavirus crisis, delaying departures for some 10,000 refugees. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

The coronavirus crisis could cost global tourism and related sectors from $1.2 to $3.3 trillion in lost revenue, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Lockdown restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 have hammered the tourism sector particularly hard, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said in a report.

The world tourism industry is expected to lose at least $1.2 trillion in the best-case scenario, UNCTAD calculated.

In a report entitled “COVID-19 and Tourism: Assessing the Economic Consequences”, UNCTAD modelled three scenarios that included the sector’s supply chain.

The scenarios are moderate, where a third of annual inbound tourism expenditure is removed, equivalent to a four-month standstill; intermediate, removing two-thirds, equivalent to an eight-month halt; and dramatic, where all expenditure is removed, equivalent to a 12-month shutdown.

In the most optimistic scenario, the world’s tourism sector could lose at least $1.2 trillion, or 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product.

That rose to $2.2 trillion or 2.8 percent of global GDP during an eight-month halt.

In the most pessimistic scenario, UNCTAD projected losses of $3.3 trillion or 4.2 percent of global GDP.

– Jamaica, Thailand hit hard –

The report said that unemployment could rise in some countries by more than 20 percentage points and some sectors could almost be wiped out if the standstill lasted an entire year.

Developing countries are among those set to suffer the steepest losses in GDP terms.

In just the moderate scenario, Jamaica would lose 11 percent of its national output; Thailand nine percent, Croatia eight percent, and Portugal six percent.

The Dominican Republic, Kenya and Morocco would all lose five percent.

In some countries, such as small island developing states, tourism accounts for more than half of GDP.

“These numbers are a clear reminder of something we often seem to forget: the economic importance of the sector and its role as a lifeline for millions of people all around the world,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD’s director of international trade.

“For many countries, like the small island developing states, a collapse in tourism means a collapse in their development prospects. This is not something we can afford.”

In absolute terms in the moderate projection, the biggest losses would be felt by the United States (-$187 billion), China including Hong Kong (-$105 billion), Thailand (-$48 billion), France (-$47 billion), Germany (-$46 billion) and Spain (-$44 billion).

– Knock-on effects –

UNCTAD also warned of heavy knock-on losses for other economic sectors, such as the goods and services used by holidaymakers, including food, beverages and entertainment.

The agency estimates that for every $1.0 million lost in international tourism revenue, a country’s national income could decline by $2.0 million to $3.0 million.

“The damage incurred in the tourism sector goes beyond cancelled flights and hotel bookings,” the report noted.

In 2019, the tourism sector accounted for around 300 million jobs globally, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. The leading destinations were France, Spain, the United States and China.

AFP

Greece Reopens Islands To Flights In Bid To Save Tourism Season

A street with shops near the beach in Pefkochori on Halkidiki Peninsula, Greece, on June 20, 2020. – One of Greece’s most popular tourism destinations, the Halkidiki peninsula provides hotels and apartments with around 100,000 rooms. Nearly 60 percent of business activity relies on the travel sector. Last year, some 1.5 million travellers visited the area, mainly from neighbouring Balkan countries. But for now, most of the resorts lie empty. And many operators dread an outbreak that would kill off their season for good. Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP,

Greece prepared to welcome tourist flights to its island destinations on Wednesday for the first time in months, as it raced to salvage a tourism season shredded by the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 100 flights from other EU nations and a select group of non-EU countries are expected at 14 regional airports including Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete, airport operator Fraport said.

Flights from Britain, one of its most lucrative travel markets, are not due to restart until July 15 at the earliest, in line with EU recommendations. The same applies to the United States, Russia, Turkey and Sweden.

Greece halted most flights three months ago as part of restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus, but the measures have seen the sector’s revenues plummet.

All Greek airports are now receiving international flights and the ports of Patras and Igoumentsa will again receive ferries from Italy.

Fourteen non-EU countries — including Australia, Canada, Japan and Uruguay — have been deemed safe enough for visitors to be allowed back.

But travellers from China, where the virus first emerged late last year, will be allowed to enter only if Beijing reciprocates and opens the door to EU residents.

Travellers will be given scannable bar codes after they fill out a questionnaire with personal details such as their country of origin and the countries they have travelled through in the last 15 days.

Those who are tested will be told to isolate at the address provided on the questionnaire while waiting for the results.

“It will be a very difficult tourism season. We will do the best we can,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the cabinet this week.

Greece, which has a relatively low coronavirus death toll under 200, has launched a promotional campaign to revive tourism, which accounts for a quarter of its gross domestic product.

The country hopes to reassure potential travellers as well as Greeks, who fear a resurgence of the pandemic with the return of tourists.

Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis on Tuesday signed an agreement with German tour giant TUI aiming to bring in some 1.5 million tourists — 50 percent of the number the agent brought to Greece in 2019.

“We’re trying to save the season,” Amelia Vlachou, a jewellery shop owner on Corfu, told AFP.

“Of course it doesn’t compare with previous years when we had lots of people.”

According to Bank of Greece figures, the country in 2019 had more than 34 million visitors who spent over 18 billion euros.

Operators say a realistic revenue goal this year is up to five billion euros.

On land border crossings, travellers from Albania, North Macedonia and Turkey are only allowed in for emergency reasons or by special permission.

AFP

Zambia Opens Airports As Tourism Sector ‘Resumes Operations’

Zambian President Edgar Lungu gives a press briefing on July 6, 2017 at the Zambian State House in Lusaka. Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Thursday justified invoking a state of emergency by alleging that opposition parties were behind a string of arson attacks intended “to create terror and panic”. DAWOOD SALIM / AFP

 

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu on Thursday announced the immediate reopening of all three of the landlocked country’s international airports to help revitalise the tourism sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lungu said decreased economic activity since the start of April caused a loss in revenues of 20.8 billion kwachas ($1.1 billion).

He announced the reopening of the three international airports with “immediate” effect to help boost earnings, adding: “In the tourism sector… we have also got to get back to work.”

Zambia’s tourism industry — with the stunning Victoria Falls as its flagship attraction — contributed $1.8 billion to the national economy in 2018, according to data by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Lungu directed the ministers of communication, finance, home affairs and tourism to work together to devise stringent health guidelines for arriving tourists.

READ ALSO: UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

Over the last 24 hours, Zambia recorded eight new coronavirus cases, for a total of 1,497 with 18 deaths. The number of recoveries now stands at 1,223.

The president urged Zambia’s more than 17 million citizens to observe high standards of hygiene as the winter season peaks in the southern hemisphere, warning that the numbers of coronavirus cases in Zambia could soar.

However, bars and nightclubs remain closed.

AFP

Italy’s Tourism Industry Expects Unprecedented Slump

People shop at the outdoor market and walk about in central Rome on May 9, 2020, during the country’s partial lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Tiziana FABI / AFP.

 

Italy’s tourism sector is expecting a steep fall in visits this summer and its worst revenue figures in over 20 years, an industry survey found on Thursday.

The country, which welcomed over 60 million foreign tourists in 2018, according to the World Tourism Organization, is now expecting 56 million fewer overnight stays, found the survey from Florence’s Centre for Tourism Studies (CTS).

That translates into a 3.2 billion euro ($3.6 billion) drop in turnover for the industry, one of the engines of Italy’s economy, representing the worst results since 1998, the survey found.

Nearly half of the drop in revenue will come from the hotel sector, found the study, which surveyed more than 2,100 entrepreneurs in the sector.

“A decrease was expected, but if it continues like this it will be the worst drop in the history of our tourism industry,” said Vittorio Messina, president of Assoturismo, Italy’s tourism federation, which commissioned the survey.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: One Positive Case In Latest Round Of Premier League Testing

After a two-month lockdown, Italy allowed European tourists to return on June 3, but incoming tourists from outside the Schengen zone are still prohibited.

“We have to make a plan for the revival of the sector which represents 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and our calling card abroad,” Messina added.

AFP

COVID-19 Crisis Punctures Tunisia Tourism Rebound

(FILES) This file photo was taken on April 4, 2020, shows an empty cafe in the village of Sidi Bou Said, some 20 kilometres northeast of Tunis, during the general confinement imposed by the authorities in order to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. FETHI BELAID / AFP.

 

As the novel coronavirus pandemic wipes out  recovery from jihadist attacks in 2015, Tunisia’s vital tourism sector is trying to find ways to avoid going under.

“Normally, the season starts now. But there is nobody,” said Mohammed Saddam, who owns an antiques shop in the famous blue and white village of Sidi Bou Said, near the capital Tunis.

Usually, its streets are filled with tourists at this time of year, but now Saddam is only opening his store for an hour a day to air it out.

“We are waiting for the airspace to reopen,” he said. “But 2020 is a write-off.”

The North African country has registered 45 deaths from the COVID-19 illness, and for several days this week saw no new infections, putting it among Mediterranean countries faring relatively well in the pandemic.

But the crisis has led to a shortfall in tourism revenues of six billion dinars (over $2 billion), the country’s national tourism office has estimated, and some 400,000 jobs are at risk.

The sector had been bouncing back to levels not seen since before the 2011 revolution that toppled longtime autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

“Tunisia had started off the year well, with an increase in (tourism) revenue of 28 percent,” said Feriel Gadhoumi, a coordinator at the tourism office.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Qatar Imposes Mandatory Masks On Pain Of Prison

But that all came to a halt in March as countries imposed travel restrictions and border closures to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Now, seaside resorts are empty and hoteliers are trying to salvage what they can of the season, counting on the country’s relatively optimistic health situation and sector-specific virus prevention measures.

– Steps to ‘regain trust’ –

While most hotels have shut for now, some are providing accommodation for people in compulsory quarantine, notably Tunisians repatriated from abroad.

The tourism ministry is preparing protocols for facilities that reopen, with some planning to do so from June.

Measures are expected to include temperature checks at hotel entrances, rooms being disinfected and left empty for 48 hours between guests and the intensive cleaning of common areas.

 

Such steps are necessary to “regain the trust of partners”, Gadhoumi from the tourism office said.

The UN World Tourism Organization has warned that international tourist numbers could drop by 60 to 80 percent in 2020.

The sector accounts for around 14 percent of Tunisia’s GDP, according to the tourism ministry.

Other changes could include offering fixed menus instead of buffets and giving guests the same tables and umbrellas for the length of their stay, hotel sales manager Anis Souissi said.

Clients will focus “on health and hygiene”, he added.

But it is unclear whether hotels, some of which are already on the edge of bankruptcy, will be able to make the necessary investments.

Even before the pandemic struck, a series of crises had weakened Tunisia’s tourism sector.

After the political instability that followed the fall of Ben Ali, jihadist attacks in 2015 targeted European holiday-makers at the Bardo museum in Tunis and the coastal tourist resort of Sousse.

The attacks killed 60 people, many of them British tourists, and dealt a heavy blow to the sector.

– Limited options –

The security situation has greatly improved since then, and tourist numbers last year had returned to pre-2011 levels, with 9.5 million visitors.

But the collapse in September of British tour operator Thomas Cook, which brought five percent of Tunisia’s European tourists, shook some hotels.

Thomas Cook had suspended trips to Tunisia after the attacks, but had returned in force in the last two years.

Now, the sector is searching for ways to survive, as the coronavirus crisis persists and as passenger flights from Europe, Tunisia’s main market, are expected to remain grounded for much of the summer.

Although thousands of foreigners remain stuck in the country due to border closures and flight suspensions, their presence won’t be nearly enough.

Instead, hoteliers have their eyes set on local tourists, as well as Algerian or Russian holiday-makers who helped dampen the previous crises.

But domestic tourism accounts for just 20 percent of Tunisia’s market, and many locals have seen their income and holiday allowances disappear during the lockdown.

Bringing more bad news, Algeria has been seriously affected by the pandemic and reopening its borders is not envisaged in the short term, while Russia currently has the second-highest number of reported infections in the world.

“Targeting the local market and preparing for the next season are the only choices we have,” sales manager Souissi said.

AFP

Ishaku Calls For Peace To Promote Tourism In Taraba

LG Funds: Ishaku Agrees With NFIU, To Reduce Political Appointees
Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku (file).

 

 

Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, has advocated for peaceful coexistence among the citizenry in the state to transform its tourism sector for better economic growth.

He made the appeal when he played host to sons and daughters of the Mambilla Plateau at the Taraba State University, Jalingo.

In a bid to fully revive the sector, the governor explained that his administration has been promoting tourism potentials of the state.

He, however, lamented that security challenges have remained the major bane to the growth of tourism in Taraba.

The Mambilla Plateau in the central zone of Taraba has been a tourism attraction centre and a source of revenue for the state government for years.

This is similar to others such as the Gashaka Gumti National Park, hydropower dams, Wunyo fishing festival, and the Ngel-yaki cultural festival.

The Mambilla Plateau located in Sardauna Local Government Area of the state and is 2,419 metres above the sea level.

It is blessed with lots of mineral resources, good climate, diverse and rich topography, tea farms and diverse cultures among others.

Regarding the potentials, the stated government believes Taraba is an underrated tourism hub is working to develop the sector.

Also at the event was the Speaker of Taraba State House of Assembly, Abel Peter, who is an indigene of the Mambilla Plateau.

He said a lot needed to be done to increase earnings from tourism in the state and urged the state government to declare a state of emergency in the sector.

Nigeria Is Safe For Tourism And Investment, Says Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigeria is safe and secure for tourism and investment, which will improve the economy.

The President made this declaration on Tuesday in Abuja, when he received the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The President said it would have been inconceivable to host an international tourism conference in Abuja four years ago, because of security concerns.

‘‘I am pleased that the country is now sufficiently safe and secure, and the message should go out to the world for all tourists and business travellers. The first thing tourists look out for is security and I am happy we have it now.

‘‘Minister Lai Mohammed has been trying to convince the world that Nigeria is safe and has great potentials for tourism and investment. I am glad that you and your team have come here to see things for yourself,’’ the President told the UN tourism chief, who is in Abuja for the 61st UNWTO Commission for Africa (CAF) conference.

Highlighting the nexus between tourism and sustainable development, the President said Nigeria would not be left behind in ensuring that communities and businesses benefit from tourism development.

In his remarks, Pololikashvili commended Nigeria for the successful hosting of the conference which brings together African Ministers of Tourism, principal executives of the global tourism body and other stakeholders in the tourism sector.

The UN tourism chief told the President Nigeria had huge potential to develop the tourism sector considering its large economy.

‘‘We can do it in Nigeria, we can create, convert Nigeria to the main tourist destination in Africa. There is a huge potential here. Culture, nature, food you have everything here.

‘‘You are investing in agriculture, improving seamless travel through visa-on-arrival programme, reforming the economy and doing so much on security. Nigeria is safe,’’ Pololikashvili said.

Also speaking, the Information and Culture Minister said 166 delegates, including 26 tourism ministers from Africa are attending the UN tourism conference, holding from June 4 to June 6 in Abuja.

Rwanda Becomes Arsenal’s Official Tourism Partner

Rwandan President, Paul Kagame

 

Rwanda has become the official tourism partner of English football club Arsenal FC, whose players will sport a “Visit Rwanda” logo on their sleeves, the club announced Wednesday.

The tiny country’s leader, President Paul Kagame, is an ardent Arsenal fan and often expresses his opinions about the club’s performances during summits and on social media.

The three-year deal with Arsenal is the latest bid by Kigali to draw tourists and investors to the country, burnishing its reputation as a safe, sought-after destination.

Ever since the devastating 1994 genocide in which 800,000 mainly Tutsis were killed, the country has been praised for a swift economic turnaround.

“The country has been transformed in recent years and Arsenal’s huge following will bring Rwanda into people’s minds in a new and dynamic way,” Arsenal’s chief commercial officer, Vinai Venkatesham, said in a statement.

“The Arsenal shirt is seen 35 million times a day around the world and we are one of the most viewed teams around the world.”

As the club’s first-ever sleeve partner, the “Visit Rwanda” logo will appear on the shirt of all first team, under-23 and Arsenal Women’s players from the new season this August, the club has announced.

Rwanda Development Board CEO, Clare Akamanzi, said that the sponsorship deal will highlight the country’s tourism offers, but would not be drawn on how much it had cost.

“While we cannot disclose the amount, the partnership cost is part of our marketing budget to promote Rwanda and attract investors and tourists,” she said.

Rwanda is one of only three countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, where one can see mountain gorillas.

The country has in recent years re-introduced lions and rhino to its Akagera National Park — which had gone extinct due to poor conservation — to become a Big Five safari destination.

“In addition, we are telling investors to Visit Rwanda and discover why we are the second fastest growing economy in Africa, growing at 7.3 percent per annum,” said Akamanzi.

She added that Arsenal players from the men’s and women’s teams will visit Rwandaand club coaches will host coaching camps to support the development of football in the country.

Rwanda received 1.3 million visitor arrivals in 2017 and tourism is Rwanda‘s largest foreign exchange earner, government statistics show.

The country has decided to focus on high-end low-impact tourism, and last year doubled the price of a gorilla permit to $1,500 (1,300 euros).

Kagame is revered in some quarters for stopping Rwanda‘s genocide and engineering what admirers see as an economic miracle, but rights groups accuse him of crushing all opposition and ruling through fear.

The 60-year-old won a third-term in office last year after the constitution was changed to allow him to potentially stay in power for another two decades.

AFP

DR Congo Park Suspends Tourism Activities After Kidnapping, Murder

In this file photograph taken on November 28, 2008, park rangers enter the thick forest as they set out looking for a group of gorillas while conducting a gorilla population census on the slopes of Mount Mikeno, in the Virunga National Park. PHOTO: ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP

 

The management of DR Congo’s Virunga Park announced on Tuesday that it has temporarily halted tourist activities after the murder of a guard and the kidnapping of two British holidaymakers.

“The Virunga National Park has decided to suspend tourist visits until Monday, June 4 because of the security incident that occurred on Friday, May 11, 2018,” a statement said.

On Friday a Congolese park guard was killed in an attack before two British tourists — Robert Jesty and Bethan Davies — and their Congolese driver were kidnapped.

The three were freed after two days. The UK pair were unharmed, while the driver was injured.

Joel Wengamulay, the spokesman for the park, said: “We are strengthening our security measures before resuming tourism activities on June 4, 2018.”

One of the most important conservation sites in the world, Virunga Park covers 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 miles) along a swathe of eastern DR Congo abutting the border with Uganda and Rwanda. It also covers most of Lake Edward and the Ishasha river valley.

Established in 1925, Virunga is home to about a quarter of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas, as well as to eastern lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, okapis, lions, elephants and hippos.

But it is located in DR Congo’s North Kivu province, where armed groups are fighting for control of territorial and natural resources, and poaching is a major threat.

Eight eco-guards at Virunga Park have died in the line of duty since the beginning of the year.

AFP