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ATA Wants Cameroon Exposed To Tourism Industry 

Interviewed by Walter Wilson Nana — The Cameroon Government, through the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure, have found a good partner in the Africa Travel Association, ATA, to promote her tourism potentials and attractions.

After the 12th and 26th congresses of ATA, held in Douala, Cameroon, the 38th ATA congress is back to Cameroon with Buea host. Expected to run from October 15 – 23, 2013, the congress, which has brought delegates from Cameroon, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Canada and the USA, was officially opened, October 17, by Cameroon’s Minister of Tourism and Leisure, Bello Bouba Maigari.

At the close of the opening ceremony, ATA’s Executive Director, Edward Bergman granted an exclusive interview to The Post, in which he talked about the relevance of promoting Cameroonian and African tourism industries in the international scene. Excerpts:

What is Africa Travel Association, ATA, all about?

We are a tourism marketing organisation, with a mission to increase tourism across the world, particularly from the US to the Africa continent.

Why did ATA bring their 38th Annual Congress to Buea, Cameroon?

We are motivated to help expose Cameroon to the international tourism industry so that when people travel, they can come here, the travel industry can come to Cameroon, it is an opportunity for the travel media to come to Cameroon, learn about what Cameroon has to offer as a tourism destination and return home and build relationships that can be long lasting, so that there can be an increase flow of tourists across the world to Cameroon.

ATA activities cut across the African continent, what are they offering to the African people?

We are bringing relationships, people in the business sector, media, people from the Diaspora, political connections to Cameroon and the African continent, who have an interest to invest and promote tourism out here. They come in, see their counterparts, see what the various African countries can offer. Through those relationships, trade is fostered for the betterment of the people, the various governments and humanity in general.

What are your expectations after the 38th ATA Congress would have been done with?

This is one more step for Cameroon to share her rich tourism potentials and attractions. We expect that after the congress, there will be follow ups from the Government, the private sectors and other initiatives working to promote Cameroon’s tourism to the world. And from our own perspectives, we are based in North America where we will also promote tourism from the US to Cameroon and the rest of the African continent.

Cameroon tourism is good in terms of the natural resources but lagging in services and communication within the country, what is the advice from ATA to the Cameroon Government and the people?

Cameroon has great potentials but one of the challenges remains infrastructure. Infrastructure is not only the responsibility of tourism. Infrastructure is the responsibility of the entire society. Everyone has to come together to develop the infrastructure but must be done in a way that is smart and will be beneficial to the tourism industry. If that is done, tourists come with economic activities, spend money in hotels, restaurants, create jobs and that income is recycled within the Cameroonian society.

What should Cameroon do to boost the already existing tourism industry in the country?

Cameroon should continue to promote herself, develop the infrastructure and put stress on education and training around tourism. We have to continuously educate everyone in Cameroon on what is tourism, tourists, and why tourism is important and what to do to balance tourism and everyday life.

How do you see the people in Cameroon vis a vis tourism?

We want to thank Cameroonians for their hospitality, the people, the Government of Cameroon, the media for their support and to add that the media has a big role to play in the promotion of Cameroonian tourism.

The US and Cameroon media have a role to play in the promotion of tourism in Cameroon and across Africa. We have to learn Cameroon and Cameroon must also know the world. Africans need to understand Africa and travel in Africa. That is the best way to promote tourism. The local media has a big role to play.

First published in the Post print edition no 01472

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