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The East African : Nov 10th 2014
26 SPECIAL REPORT The EastAfrican NOVEMBER 8-14, 2014 EAST AFRICAN VOICES PROTOCOL watch One visa gives access to th≥ee count≥ies E arly this year the EAC Heads of State launched a single visa for tourists visiting Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda in a bid to attract more tourists to the region. The Single Tourist Visa is expected to make travelling in the EAC countries easier for tourists and residents and improve the economies of partner states. A holder of such a visa will have the freedom to move around the three countries without paying more fees. Burundi and Tanzania are expected to join later. >> Standardisation of hotels set to boost regional tourism The East African Community is in the process of standardising hotels in all the partner states in a bid to boost tourism in the region. This is expected to enhance competitiveness among them. The five partner states are using the EAC’s 2010 gazetted criteria on hotel grading and classification. The standards are similar to the ones used to rate South African hotels. The criteria include schedules for star rating classification of lodges, motels, tented camps, town hotels, vacation hotels, villas, cottages, serviced apartments and restaurants. >> One stop border posts for faster trade The East African Legislative Assembly passed the One Stop Border Posts Bill 2012 making it mandatory for member states of the EAC to construct the special border posts in order to improve the flow of trade. EAC partner states are in the process of implementing the concept, aimed at boosting trade facilitation across borders by harmonising border control regulations and procedures and, thus, enabling expeditious and more effective border control. EAC membe≥ states make plans The threat of terrorism and Ebola fears are keeping tourists away, but the single tourist visa icould draw them back to the region By JULIUS BARIGABA Special Correspondent Uganda and Rwanda are projected to register growth, while Kenya is expected to suffer dips in earnings as insecurity and subsequent travel advisories from the West take their toll. Tourism generates 14 per T cent of Kenya’s gross domestic product and employs 12 per cent of its workforce. Besides, it is the country’s largest earner of foreign exchange after tea and coffee exports. However, Kenya is the only country in the EAC that has not directly allocated any funds to tourism in its budget. Insecurity has negatively im- pacted Kenya’s beach tourism with over 5,000 jobs reported lost in the Coastal towns of Mombasa, Malindi and Diani on the South Coast. Terror attacks on Westgate Mall in Nairobi last year affected the last quarter of the year, and saw Kenya’s international tourist arrivals dip by 15.8 per cent to 1.49 million in 2013, down from 1.78 million the previous year. As a result of the violence and subsequent travel advisories, tourism especially on Kenya’s Coast has dropped by four per cent since January, according to the Kenya Tourism Board. Between January and May — the high season — there were 381,000 arrivals, compared with 398,000 over the same period last year. Kenya has commenced the process of outsourcing for a private public relations company he year has brought mixed fortunes for the tourism sector in East Africa; Tanzania, to help promote and market Kenya as a safe tourist destination as well as create awareness of the available tourist sites. The region’s leaders have also weighed in, with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta personally making appeals to Western governments to lift travel advisories on Kenya. To eliminate terrorist cells, East Africa’s security forces have been sharing information. According to Waturi Matu, the co-ordinator of the East African Tourism Platform, the decline in tourist arrivals in Kenya is as a result of travel advisories by the European Union and the US, and the recent Ebola scare in West Africa. However, many Kenyan tour- ist attractions are slowly reviving since insecurity incidents have reduced. “It’s only at the Coast that we are still having a challenge since things have not stabilised, but once all the insecurity issues are sorted out, we hope that things will normalise,” said Ms Matu. She said aggressive strategies like online marketing should be adopted to promote the country as a must-visit location. In Tanzania, the deadly out- break of Ebola in West Africa has put its $1.9 million tourism industry under renewed pressure. Industry players report that tourist arrivals in Tanzania have dropped by 25 per cent, despite the country being more than 5,000 km from the Ebolastricken countries. The Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato) said travel inquiries have fallen by up to 50 per cent since the outbreak ON THE GROUND The Single Tou≥ist Visa enhances >> Tanzania , Burundi to adopt use of IDs as travel documents EAC partner states are expected to start using national and student identity cards as travel documents for their citizens. Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have already adopted the use of IDs as travel documents across their borders; Tanzania and Burundi are expected to join soon. The IDs will be machine-readable electronic cards. A traveller will show their identity card to immigration officers and receive a coupon with an entry stamp of six months. EAST AFRICA has some of the world’s most celebrated tourist destinations, from the wildebeest migration through Kenya and Tanzania to the iconic gorillas of Rwanda’s Rwenzori Mountains and Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest. Yet the number of visitors East Africa (Bu- rundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) receives annually is a fraction of those of its competitors in the rest of Africa, such as South Africa and Morocco. Allan Ngugi of TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) puts much of this down to cost — including the cost of individual visas to each country. For a family of five to visit just three countries in East Africa, he noted, it would cost about $750 in visas alone, not to mention the inconvenience of getting them. Add that to the cost of flights, hotels and safaris and tourists who want to visit more than one country in East Africa are instantly discouraged. Realising that East Africa had to be posi- tioned as a more competitive tourist destination the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP) was launched in April 2012 with the support of TMEA. Its mission is “to promote intra and inter-regional tourism through advocacy, marketing, skills development, research and information sharing.” One of its recently launched initiatives, in of Ebola. They said the Ebola crisis had impacted the travel industry more than terrorism. “Tanzania and the region are probably much safer than Europe and the US because of low human traffic between East and West Africa. But in case of an outbreak, we will ensure safety for our guests,” Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Lazaro Nyalandu said. “Tour operators are willing to refund tourists in full in case an Ebola outbreak occurs in Tanzania, so we are consulting the state and hotels over the deal as part of contingency plan,” Tato chairman Willy Chambulo said. The outlook for Burundi is positive, although the numbers are below its EAC partner states. The World Travel and Tour- ism Report (WTTC) 2014 says Uganda’s tourism, buoyed by the Single Tourist Visa in partnership with Kenya and Rwanda, will grow at 6.4 per cent, surpassing last year’s earnings estimated at between $1.7 billion and $2.1 billion. The Single Tourist Visa costs $100 and is valid for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda; visitors keen on seeing Rwanda’s mountain gorillas or the Ugandan experience of white water rafting on the Nile River, will also be compelled to sample Kenya’s wildlife and beaches. Previously, a tourist paid $50 to access each of the three destinations. Uganda Tourism Board chief executive officer Stephen Asiimwe said the visa is modelled on Europe’s Schengen, which allows access to 26 countries.
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