EAC States unveil new initiatives aimed at attracting more tourists
KAMPALA - Efforts aimed at attracting more visitors into the region have gained momentum, with officials pledging to jointly market Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda as a single tourist destination at upcoming expos and major events in the East African Community (EAC) and globally.
Among the major upcoming events coming up that the region intends to promote jointly include Martyrs Day in Uganda that falls on June 3, Rwanda's Kwita Izina scheduled for June 21, Magical Kenya Expo slated for October and the World Travel Market in London in November.
This was revealed last week by Monique Mukaruliza, the national co-ordinator of the tripartite initiative, while reporting on the progress of the marketing initiative at the ministerial meeting to discuss modalities of the implementation directives of the Northern Corridor integration projects.
Mukaruliza told the meeting that foreign missions of the three countries were already marketing the region as a single destination.
Last month, the three countries held a joint exhibition and promotion at the Indaba Fair in South Africa, which is regarded as Africa's largest travel trade show.
Mukaruliza noted that the three countries were also undertaking separate campaigns to create awareness about the single tourist visa to ease the process of marketing the region as a single travel package.
The cross-border visa enables tourists to travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda at $100. It is a result of a joint initiative and a decision by the Heads of State of the three countries that aims at promoting tourism among the three nations.
Before the establishment of the single tourist visa, Kenya and Uganda used to charge $50, while Rwanda levied $30 per entry.
Tourists are now able to enjoy variety in the three partner states at an affordable fee instead of paying different charges and wasting time at borders, making the region more competitive and attractive to visitors.
The initiative is expected to ensure the three countries have a significant share of the 50 million tourists who visit the continent annually.
Kenyan Interior Cabinet Secretary, Joe Ole Lenku, said through integration of services such as tourism, the region will increase its trading capacity with the rest of the world.
The countries are also working on liberalising services such as transport to boost tourism and the movement of people across the region.
During the meeting, the ministers agreed to draft an agreement on how to liberalise services before presenting it to the leaders of member countries for consideration.
Meanwhile, Ole Lenku pledged that Kenyan government's would continue discussions with Kenya Airways on the use of voter cards and national ID cards as standard travel documents for members of the Northern Corridor agreement to also facilitate movement of the citizens of the three regional countries.
Burundi and South Sudan were also incorporated into the group, and asked to consider initiatives they would like to take part in.
Other agreements reached were the liberalisation of labour market, which would allow citizens an opportunity to work in any country in the region without unnecessary barriers, such as work permits.
Immigration, tourism and trade ministers from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and South Sudan also attended meeting.