Tourism and Arts Minister Ronald Chitotela says tourism has a pivotal role to play in achieving international, regional and local commitments that Zambia has made such as the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

According to a statement issued by Ministry of Tourism public relations officer Sakabilo Kalembwe – Zacks, Tuesday, Chitotela was speaking in Accra, Ghana on Monday when he addressed delegates at the ongoing UNWTO Regional Congress On Women Empowerment in The Tourism Sector – Focus on Africa.

Chitotela said said tourism was also key for attaining Africa’s Agenda 2063, the UNWTO Agenda for Africa 2030 and commitments to gender equality, women’s empowerment and leaving no one behind which are embedded at local level in various government policies.

He said the business volume of tourism equals, or even surpasses, that of oil exports, ‎food products or automobiles.

“Tourism has become one of the major players in ‎international commerce and represents at the same time one of the main income ‎sources for many developing countries,” said Chitotela.

Chitotela said this growth went hand in hand with an ‎increasing diversification and competition among destinations.‎

And Ghanaian Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia said there was need to have a single air market for Africa.

He said this was the only way to allow free flow of tourists to and around the continent as opposed to having unnecessary protection of markets.

Bawumia said many women in Africa were in the tourism value chain and hence the need to support them by creating an enabling environment for them to operate in.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa said the tourism sector had demonstrated that there was great potential of improving livelihoods in African communities.

She bemoaned the fact that many women were still being excluded in the sector and had challenges to join mainstream tourism activities despite being warm and hospitable people.

Auxillia said there was no doubt that tourism could alleviate poverty in local communities through job creation.