East African skies are set to attract more airlines to operate within the region, taking advantage of the fast-growing tourist business and expansion of hotel investments in partner states.
Tourism is growing to attract more tourists and travel trade investors in East Africa, reaping from strategic marketing campaigns being undertaken to sell the regional tourist products in the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim, and the rest of Africa.
The region, which comprises five member states of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi, is taking advantage of a global marketing initiative by the Africa Travel Association (ATA) through global tourism networking for three consecutive years.
On the eve of the international year of tourism next year, ATA will hold its 41st Annual World Tourism Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, in November this year and which is set to open more tourist avenues in East Africa.
The conference that is set to attract key tourist executives across the world will also provide a platform to network and explore new tourism markets and products including the promotion and preservation of Africa’s rich cultural heritage and wildlife.
East Africa’s skies are set to become busier, reaping from benefits of tourism and safari business in this region at the time regional governments are looking to revive national airlines.
Uganda is looking at best steps to revive its national airline; Rwanda is expanding its RwandAir fleet, while Tanzania is recuperating its ailing Air Tanzania Company (ATCL) by adding two Bombardier Q400 air planes.
But, aviation and tourism economists are taking Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda to benefit more from international tourism and travel trade compared to Tanzania and Burundi, the duo partners who could be left behind because of lacking a good vision in their tourism.
Burundi is suffering from internal, political strife, while the new government of Tanzania had developed squint eyes on tourism and introduced Value Added Tax (VAT) on tourist services in addition to the once, existing multiple taxes and levies.
The duo, Burundi and Tanzania, remain disadvantaged members of the East African region to benefit little from tourism due to elaborated factors motivated by maverick politics and lacking comprehensive approach on tourism development.
Introduction of VAT on tourist services, the ban and restriction of government sponsored conferences, seminars and workshops in tourist hotels had adversely refracted both the holidaymakers and hotel investors in Tanzania; now are looking for other regional destinations.
Counting the airlines as key players for tourism development and growth, Kenya Airways and RwandAir stand on better positions to dominate East African skies with positive benefits from the region’s tourism.
Kenya Airways, whose government of Kenya is the largest shareholder with a 29.8 percent stake, is passing through restructuring and is expected to embark on a capital raising soon. The airline is operating with modern aircraft with a fleet of 38 big airplanes flying in the East African region and other African skies.
The airline connects the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to big cities in Africa, the Middle East, China, India, and Europe. Kenya Airways is among the few and leading air carriers connecting the African continent to Europe and America, attracting tourists to visit East Africa.
The Kenyan government had allocated US$45 million for tourism promotion this year. Finance Minister Henry Rotich proposed to remove the Value Added Tax (VAT) on park entrance fees in his annual budget speech last month in a motive to attract more tourists and boosting tourism in this country.
RwandAir, which has 8 aircraft, is to take delivery of its first 2 Airbus A330 long-range jets in September and November. Rwanda’s state-owned carrier is planning flights to Asia and Europe as part of the Rwandese government strategy to become a regional tourist hub. Flights to Mumbai are due to start in September this year, with China and Europe expected in the next year.
In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni told the cabinet meeting last month that one of his priorities was to revive Uganda Airlines, the state-owned carrier that went bankrupt in 2001 and ceased operations.
“Ugandan travelers are suffering because of apparently not having a national airline,” he told his ministers.
The annual congress of ATA will be held in Rwanda’s scenic Kigali from November 14 to 17 this year. “The Future of African Tourism” is the theme of the 41st congress. Delegates from Africa, USA, Europe, and several other countries across the globe will be joining the annual congress in Rwanda.