The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Commission for Africa held its 61st Regional Tourism Conference in Abuja, capital of Nigeria between June 4 and 5, 2018. The South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Derek Andre Hanekom, who was visiting Nigeria for the first time, was one of the more than 20 ministers and 500 delegates from 34 countries who attended the conference.
On the 6th of June 2018, the minister, on his way back to South Africa, stopped by in Lagos and hosted some members of the media, trade &and other stakeholders to an exclusive dinner at Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.
The South African Tourism Trade Relations Manager (West Africa), Mr. Mohammed Tanko Kwajaffa, who stood in for the Hub Head, Mr. Hloni Pitso, who was on study leave at the time, welcomed the guests and introduced the Minister and his wife as well the Consul General of South Africa in Lagos, Ambassador Darkey Africa, who accompanied the Minister to the dinner.
The honourable minister, underscoring the pivotal position that Nigeria occupies in South Africa’s tourism marketing plan as well as the historical bond between West Africa and South Africa, opened the discussions. He requested for an open and transparent dialogue on the tourism sector with focus on the flow of traffic between West Africa and South Africa.
Guests enjoyed a savoury South African inspired three-course dinner, though the Minister had insisted on a local Nigerian dish. Going by the pleasant experiences and stories shared across the table that night, it was unanimous that South Africa is a world-class tourism destination, rich in taste, culture and experiences.
However, the major trust of contributions made by the majority of the media and key trade travel partners at the dinner centered on the recurring challenges that applicants encounter when processing South African visa.
Responding, the minister assured all present that considering the importance of the West African market to South African Tourism, a lot was already being done to address the issue.
He said: “We are fully aware of the situation and have set several things in motion to ease the processing of South African Visa in Nigeria. We are working towards eventually having an e-visa regime. We want to modernize the systems and ease the burdens. We are also working on a way of using the fact that someone has a valid visa of countries like USA, U.K. on his or her passport etc. as a criteria to speed up the visa application process for such a person.”
In his contribution, Ambassador Darkey Africa, said as a consulate they were also aware of the visa situation and on their part, they are working determinedly with their colleagues in the Home Affairs Ministry in South Africa to ensure that Nigerians enjoy better and more seamless regime of processing South African visa at the shortest possible time.
He, however, advised that applicants should always submit their applications on time and with the appropriate supporting documents as this will make it easier for the process to be more seamless for everyone’s good. The need for more socio-cultural exchanges between South Africa and the countries in West Africa was suggested by Mr. Obinna Emelike of The Business Day Newspaper and it was generally agreed that such exchanges will go a long way to strengthen the historical bond between South Africa and West Africa.
One of the major highlights of the evening was the appreciation expressed by Nigeria travel agents to Ambassador Darkey Africa for the open-door policy that he had operated since his assumption of office and the very kind gestures that he has continued to express towards the travel agents in Nigeria. The Nigerian tour operators also presented Mr. Hanekom with a Nigerian artifact.
In closing, Minister Hanekom called for greater regional cooperation and for Africans to work together to ensure ease of travel and the continued growth of tourism across the continent. He also promised that the short visa duration currently being given to frequent travellers will be looked into and reviewed. Mr. Mohammed Tanko Kwajaffa gave a vote of thanks and the dinner was brought to an end, after which group pictures were taken with the ever cheerful Mr. Derek Hanekom and his wife.