African tourism has a reach that can only be imagined. This is because up till now, tourism in Africa is not yet functioning at half capacity, let alone full capacity. The possibilities are endless if the industry in Africa is as developed all round as it is in other parts of the world. This is taking into account all the kinds of tourism available, which include natural tourism, artificial tourism, birth tourism, religious tourism, cultural tourism and many more.
But like any industry or any concept in life, PR, or lack of it, is a vital part of its success or failure. There is the need to get word out on the availability of tourism in Africa, even after all things have been put in place to encourage tourism.
No doubt, tourism has a huge potential in Africa, a continent that still receives the lowest share of tourist arrivals in the world, and fostering tourism in Africa requires creating a great awareness, and the media is the key factor to consider in the creation of such awareness.
Malcolm X said that the media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that is power, because they control the mind of the masses.
The media is a strong industry in any economy and has the ability to talk for the people, teach the people and sometimes even think for the people. This means that their role, which already is crucial, gives them an omniscient quality that cannot be undermined.
Africa as a whole cannot depend on locally generated tourism or local tourists alone, but the preconceived notions of Africa by foreign media sometimes stands in the way of international tourism and tourists. Outside Africa, there are many facts and fiction circulated about the continent, and this sometimes mars the beauty that may be found in Africa.
In a paper presented at the Sixth Annual African Studies Consortium Workshop, Rod Chavis address, “some evidences of a modus operandi Western Media organizations employ to specifically dump negative news materials and information when reporting, communicating, or disseminating anything concerning Africa.”
He went further to explain that “With the stroke of a journalist’s pen, the African, her continent, and her descendants are pejoratively reduced to nothing: a bastion of disease, savagery, animism, pestilence, war, famine, despotism, primitivism, poverty, and ubiquitous images of children, flies in their food and faces, their stomachs distended. These ‘universal’ but powerfully subliminal message units connote something not good, perennially problematic unworthiness, deplorability, black, foreboding, loathing, sub humanity, etc. On the other hand, little is said about Africa’s strategic importance to industrialized nations; her indispensability and relevance to world development, global technology, and the wealth of nations, derived from African largesse, are not acclaimed in the media.”
This stipulation explains how foreign media, unchecked can influence tourism in Africa. Foreign media can both make or mar the prospects of tourism in Africa.
Consequently, for tourism to begin the climb to a steady position in the economy in Africa, there is a need to change the narrative positively, by balancing out the negative aspects of African realities with the beauty and good that is found in Africa.
This is essentially the kind of publicity Africa requires to promote tourism. Thus, local journalists need to be selective about their news content in order that a distorted picture of Africa is not painted, but a clearer, more realistic and true picture is broadcast.
By setting such a pace, foreign media may take a clue from the playbook of African journalists, and follow suit in not only propagating what is wrong in Africa, but broadcasting a balanced reports on the great, beautiful, bad and ugly found in Africa.