Africa Travel Association (ATA) Annual Congress – Press Release
Africa Travel Association
Release: June 7, 2012
AFRICA TRAVEL ASSOCIATION HOLDS 37
CONGRESS IN VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE
International event convenes over 500 delegates from governments, business and the
non-profit sectors to address growth of African tourism.
U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe stresses importance of trade and investment between
USA and Zimbabwe in improving understanding.
New York, June 8, 2012
– The Africa Travel Association, the world’s leading travel industry
trade association promoting tourism to Africa, held its 37
Annual Congress in Victoria Falls,
Zimbabwe, May 18 – 22, 2012. More than 500 delegates from government, business and the
non-profit sectors gathered at ATA’s hallmark event in Africa.
The theme, “Africa Tourism: Partnering for the Future,” focused on how tourism, with growth
rates in emerging markets outperforming more established destinations, is one of the most
promising industries on the African continent for development. South African Airways served as
Presenting Sponsor and Official Congress Carrier and Arik Air served as Official Media Carrier.
Congress has been a real success with significant outcomes that will have a positive
impact on the tourism industry in Zimbabwe and across Africa,” said Edward Bergman, ATA
Executive Director. “Now more than ever, the tourism industry has a greater ability to affect lives
and contribute to positive growth and development and ATA is pleased to be at the heart of this
Delegates included five tourism ministers from Central African Republic, Ghana, Namibia,
Uganda and Zimbabwe, along with government representatives from Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia,
Kenya, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia, and hundreds of participants from around the world.
The Congress was hosted by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) under the auspices of
Honorable Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Walter Mzembi. ATA government
members elected Minister Mzembi, as the new president of the association at the ATA board
meeting on the final day of the congress.
Zimbabwe is Open for Business
On the first day of the congress, Ambassador of the USA to Zimbabwe, Charles A. Ray,
conveyed that “Zimbabwe is open for business.” He said that US business representatives were
coming to Zimbabwe because the economy was growing and trade and investment links
between the two countries were improving.
Speaking about the importance of building better cooperation and understanding between the
USA and Zimbabwe, the Ambassador said, “Zimbabwe, even with its political uncertainty,
represents a potentially huge market for Americans… it has the highest literacy rate in sub-
Saharan Africa, and a population that when opportunities are available they’re very hard
working and very organized and get things done.”
In an interview with one of the congress media delegates, Ambassador Ray said, “You have to
look at what’s going on on the ground in order to understand the reality. There is a gap between
the perceived risk here and the real risk. The real risk, in most cases, is far less than the
perceived risk caused by the image the country has.”
Building on these themes, a special congress session, featuring Ambassador Ray and U.S.
Ambassador to Zambia, Mark C. Storella, was held on the second to last day of the congress.
The two Ambassadors spoke about prospects for U.S. trade and investment in the tourism
sector in the neighboring countries, along with the role the US embassies play in improving
relations and facilitating exchanges.
The Congress kicked off with ATA’s third annual
Young Professionals Program Forum
Elephant Hills Hotel. Students, young professionals and industry leaders from the tourism and
hospitality sector came together to discuss the most pressing issues for young professionals in
the industry. Topics included harnessing social media to promote African tourism, rural tourism
development, and the ethics of sustainability and ecological integrity.
Ministers from Central African Republic, Ghana, Namibia, Togo and Zimbabwe participated in
Tourism Ministers’ Roundtable
. Everyone agreed that the benefits of tourism could be
strengthened if African governments collaborated more closely with each other and the private
sector over a number of issues, including connectivity, visas, branding and packaging products.
The importance of integrating local community into tourism programs was also stressed.
Inspired by the Japanese television cooking show, Iron Chef, ATA held the first “
.” Delegates enjoyed a luncheon prepared by culinary students from the Bulawayo
School of Hospitality and Tourism Studies and chefs from Victoria Falls hotels. Visiting chefs
from the USA, Chef Pierre Thiam, Senegalese cookbook author,
and Eric Simeon, E&E
Grill House Executive Chef, judged the competition, along with Ambassador Ray; Dr. Nancy
Scanlon of Florida International University; Chef Christopher Gonzo, Chief Executive of the
Zimbabwean Culinary Association; and Chef Johnson, Chief Technical Coordinator of ZTA.
Sessions on social media strategies with
and the role of film in marketing
Thinking Forward Media
provided participants with practical tools for more
effective media relations and marketing. An
representative discussed the importance
of bringing Africa’s products to market through social media, mobile technology, and the
representative discussed how to leverage content from dozens of
partners to create a unified strategy for promoting your destination on the Web.
presented on the pros and cons of volun-tourism.
Delegates explored several new tourism topics at the congress, including “Women’s
Engagement in Africa’s Tourism Industry,” which brought together representatives from
, Amalinda Collection, United Nations World Tourism Organization
to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing women in the tourism industry today.
Leading travel trade and mainstream media representatives explored the relationships between
tourism and the media at one of the sessions. Participants spoke about how to develop more
effective media relations and how to move travel news to the front pages. The participants
spoke about how the negative and the positive play a role in creating perceptions of Africa and
stressed the potential role of the media in communicating tourism’s contribution to development
and achieving political stability.
At Zimbabwe Culture Night, ATA announced the recipients of ATA’s annual awards. The
recipients of the Outstanding Service to the Association awards were Hon. Mzembi (MP),
Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe; Karikoga Kaseke; Chief Executive of
the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA); Tesa Chikaponya, Executive Director of Destination
Marketing at ZTA; and Evelyn Chidyausiku, US Representative of ZTA. Robert Brunner, Vice
President of the Americas for Arik Air International Ltd received the Outstanding Leadership
Award; and Dr. Yohannes Zeleke, President of the ATA Mid-Atlantic Chapter, received the ATA
Founder’s Award. Chef Pierre Thiam and Chef Eric Simeon received the Development of
Responsible Tourism in Africa awards and ATA outgoing President, Hon. Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie,
Minister of Tourism and Culture of The Gambia, received the Promotion of Responsible Tourism
to Africa Award. Finally, Andrea Papitto, Vice President of Thinking Forward Media, received the
Young Professionals Leadership award.
Showcasing Destination Zimbabwe
As soon as they arrived in Victoria Falls, delegates enjoyed a tour of Victoria Falls, one of the
world’s seven wonders. Many also participated in activities around the falls, including bungee
jumping, gorge swing and ziplining over the Zambezi, lion and elephant encounters, helicopter
rides and safaris in Zimbabwe and Botswana during the congress.
On the first host-country day, ATA delegates visited a community-based tourism project in
, where they enjoyed local cuisine, traditional music and dance. En route to the village,
delegates participated in the annual ATA tree planting ceremony to offset the carbon footprint of
Zambia Tourist Board
co-sponsored the second host-country day. Delegates crossed the
Zambezi River into Livingstone for lunch and cultural entertainment. They also visited several
hotel properties, including the
Chrismar and Royal Livingstone hotels, and toured the
, a luxury rail experience. The day wrapped up in Zimbabwe with a sunset
river cruise on the Zambezi.
During the congress, delegates also enjoyed two special evening events. Sponsored by
Rainbow Tourism Group
, the first was a cocktail reception with live music and food at the
A’Zambezi River Lodge
. The next was held at The Boma Restaurant at the
, hosted by Africa Albida Tourism
. ATA delegates also celebrated with over one
thousand music fans at an outdoor concert with one of Zimbabwe’s most revered musicians,
Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi
ATA’s young professionals hosted the third annual “Celebrate Africa Social Night,” a time for the
delegates to enjoy Zimbabwean music, cuisine and dancing and culture. The night began with a
traditional braai dinner in the garden of The Kingdom Hotel, followed by dancing at The Wild
Thing Action Bar. At a press conference during the congress, Karikoga Kaseke, Chief Executive
of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), announced that Zimbabwe will form an ATA Young
Professionals chapter to “…advance the interests of our young professionals in the industry.”
South African Airways
, Presenting Sponsor and Official Airline of the 2012 ATA World
Congress, organized special discounts for delegates attending the Congress.
as Official Media Carrier of the World Congress. Media sponsors included Afrique Expansion, ETurbo
News, RS Social, and Travel World News.
ATA, in partnership with Arik Air and ZTA, organized a diverse media delegation, including
representatives from Africa.com, Afrique Expansion, Bloomberg Business, Essence Magazine,
Jax Fax, Matador Network, Network Journal, Ogo Sow Communications, RS Social, Travel
World News, and VOA News. E-Turbo News also covered the event.
Most delegates stayed at the official congress venue in Victoria Falls,
Elephant Hills Resort
along with Adventure Zone Lodge, The Kingdom Hotel, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria
Falls Hotel, Victoria Falls Rainbow Hotel and the A’Zambezi River Lodge.
For more information on ATA, visit
For more information on Zimbabwe, visit
For congress photos, visit ATA’s
For congress videos, visit
For congress blog, visit
For the program, visit
For copies of presentations and speeches, contact ATA at
For interview opportunities contact ATA by phone at +1-212-447-1357 or via email at
About the Africa Travel Association (ATA)
The Africa Travel Association (ATA) is the leading global trade association promoting travel and
tourism to Africa and strengthening intra-Africa partnerships. Established in 1975, ATA serves
both the public and private sectors of the international travel and tourism industry. ATA
membership comprises African governments, their tourism ministers, tourism bureaus and
boards, airlines, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, front-line travel sellers and providers, tour
operators and travel agents, and affiliate industries. ATA partners with the African Union
Commission (AU) to promote the sustainable development of tourism to and across Africa.
ATA’s annual events bring together industry leaders to shape Africa’s tourism agenda. For more
information about ATA, visit