Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – The inaugural Communications, Media and Tourism Training Workshop in Africa, held from November 13 to 15, underscored the growing significance of tourism and the untapped potential for enhancing its visibility beyond the industry itself. This three-day event delved into opportunities for integrating tourism into mainstream discourse while addressing the persistent challenges confronting communities, destinations, and the African region as a whole.
Learning by Doing
Consistent with UNWTO‘s collaborative approach to communications, the workshop prioritized active learning among participants and trainers. To gain a deeper understanding of the importance of tourism and how to effectively communicate its value, the first day commenced with visits to three case studies in and around Victoria Falls:
- Tourism for Wildlife Conservation: A visit to the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust provided a firsthand glimpse of community-driven conservation efforts, highlighting instances where tourism contributes to wildlife protection and identifying areas where further contributions can be made.
- Tourism for Development: Face-to-face interactions with leaders and members of Umuzi Village shed light on the challenges faced by small destinations in reaping the benefits of tourism, particularly in terms of outreach, communication, and promotion.
- Tourism for Nature: The rainforest within Victoria Falls National Park served as a testament to tourism’s ability to support ecosystem preservation, while also emphasizing the need to fully realize the sector’s potential.
These field trips served as the foundation for interactive learning sessions and workshops held on the following two days. The 50 participants, representing 20 countries and diverse backgrounds in communications, destination management, and tourism governance, were tasked with addressing three of the most critical challenges facing tourism communicators today: media pitching, building and maintaining media relations, and framing the narrative around tourism for development.
The workshop benefited from insightful presentations by experts from UNWTO, the media landscape (Meta, Channels TV, TraveMedia Ireland), and leading content creators. These interactive presentations focused on the most pertinent issues, including strategies for placing tourism in the mainstream media, leveraging the power of social media for tourism for development, effective collaboration with the media, and crafting compelling communications that showcase tourism’s significance for culture, heritage, and communities.
Solutions and Discussions
Drawing inspiration from the field trips, participants were challenged to present their solutions to the three key challenges outlined. With a continued emphasis on interactive learning, the diverse backgrounds and perspectives enriched discussions on the most effective methods for pitching tourism to the broader media landscape, collaborating with media in an ever-evolving environment, and transcending the perception of tourism as merely a leisure pursuit.
These discussions not only highlighted the shared goals of diverse destinations but also underscored the gaps in knowledge that remain to be addressed, with UNWTO reaffirming its commitment to providing further media training.
While exploring solutions to enhance tourism’s presence in the media landscape, the workshop also delved into crisis communications, drawing upon the diverse expertise of participants and the insights from the field trips to identify proactive measures and strengthen readiness.
In conclusion, the first Communications, Media and Tourism Training Workshop in Africa effectively demonstrated the power of collaboration and hands-on learning in addressing the challenges and opportunities facing the tourism sector. By fostering a shared understanding of tourism’s significance and equipping participants with practical tools, the workshop has laid a solid foundation for strengthening tourism communications across Africa.