Nigerian and Moroccan travel and tourism operators have identified visa restrictions and poor air-connectivity among countries as some challenges facing intra–Africa tourism.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that they stated this on Thursday during a familiarisation meeting between the two country’s travel and tourism stakeholders.

The event, which was organised by the Moroccan National Tourism Office in collaboration with the Royal Air Maroc, was for the industry players to share experiences and find areas of possible collaboration.

According to the stakeholders, who spoke with NAN in separate interviews, poor intra-African air connectivity and visa requirements hurdles are key factors stalling movement from one country to another within the continent.

They noted that there were very few flights connecting major cities across Africa, and in most cases, the flights that do exist were often more expensive than routes of similar duration elsewhere in the world.

Mrs Patience Okotie-Rhima, the Managing Director, Patelo Travels, said that securing visa to other tourism destinations outside Africa seemed to be easier than getting those of some African countries.

She said that the trend had made many tourists take solace in Dubai and other European countries as tourism destinations.

“If countries can give visa to tourists without restrictions, it will promote the growth of tourism as more people will be enabled to move freely within the continent as it is done among European countries.

“Taking a flight between cities across African nations is often expensive, and with a prolonged journey in some cases,” Okotie-Rhima said.

Mr Toufik Madih, the President, Regional Travel Agents Association of Marrakech and Safi, said that intra-Africa flights were a challenge across the continent because of no direct flights to many cities.

He expressed concern that there were cases when tourists from Africa would have to travel to Europe before connecting a flight back to another African country.

Madih commended the Moroccan Government for its commitment to aviation development by linking its national carrier to many African cities and opening its airspace to other international airlines.

“The first step is to create direct flights with 34 African countries already linked to Morocco, including Lagos, and very soon our Abuja route will begin operation.

“Diverse connecting flights are key to developing tourism, and that has made Marrakech a choice and easy destination with 2.5 million tourists visiting it annually,” he said.

On his part, Mr Jalal Imani, the Africa Director, Moroccan National Tourism Office, said that there was need to overhaul the entire air transport system within Africa, and ensure that more airlines operate within Africa.

Imani said that there was need to promote African tourism to its people because it was a tool for economic growth and regional integration.

He explained that as part of measures to make Moroccan tourism opportunities accessible, the country had granted visa-free entry to some African countries, including Gabon, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

“The cost of the numbers of hours travelled within Africa is too high when you compare it with the same number of hours covered among nations within Europe.

“Airline companies should be developed, and countries should open up their airspace for others to operate for competiveness.

“I think that all the African countries have to ease the processes of giving visas to each other, for example more visas can be granted on arrival,” Imani said.

Mr Taiwo Oladele, the General Manager, Dees Travels and Tours Ltd., commended the Moroccan Tourism Office’s initiative to showcase the country’s rich tourism to promote intra-Africa tourism.

He said that Nigeria is a large economy in Africa that produced a lot of the continent’s tourists, and urged the Moroccan authority to ensure that visa restrictions were not a barrier to its tourists.

“This visit and interactions in Morocco have opened our eyes to see that apart from Europe and Dubai, Africa has amazing tourists’ destinations.

“However, African governments should ensure that all travel hurdles in terms of visa applications are removed for tourism to strive within the continent,” he said.

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