ARUSHA, Tanzania (eTN) – During their recent meeting in Tanzania’s northern tourist city of Arusha, top tourism leaders from 14 member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) called for respective governments to endorse a single visa program that would ease movement of tourists in the region.
Top leaders, including directors of tourism, marketing professionals, national tourist board chief executives, policymakers, and wildlife conservationists, said during their meeting that quick intervention by regional leaders is needed to introduce a single visa program for both tourists and citizens visiting each SADC member state.
The tourism leaders and members of the board of directors of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) noted with great concern that a Univisa (single visa) program is timely as the number of foreign tourists visiting Southern Africa has been increasing after last year’s World Cup tournament in South Africa.
Africa, which was the only region to record positive tourist growth figures in 2009, saw a growth of 6 percent to 49 million tourist arrivals during 2010, benefiting from relatively stable economic figures and events such as the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
The Southern African region recorded over 15 million visitors during the same period of the World Cup event, some of the visitors coming from other parts of the African continent and others from other parts of the world.
RETOSA Chairman and Permanent Secretary for the Zimbabwe Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr. Sylvester Maunganidze, said international sentiment towards Southern Africa was at its highest in many years following the successful hosting of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa and should be explored to capacity.
He told the meeting delegates that a single visa was a vital element in stimulating visiting itineraries among member states.
“A tourist in Angola needs a visa to enter Botswana or South Africa, a situation that takes days and unnecessary delays. Someone should pass through border restrictions before getting through to another member state,” Dr. Maunganidze noted.
He told the delegates that RETOSA was the best and most recognized tourist organization that is the most well organized and largely coordinated group in Africa with functioning programs and the best working agenda.
“We are currently looking at best options to market RETOSA and the entire SADC region before major global tourist market sources and show ourselves as a single bloc. We are encouraging tourist executives to visit each member state to familiarize [themselves] with tourist products and service facilities available, so as to make marketing of the region much more easier,” he noted.
Likewise, RETOSA’s board of directors called for quick action from SADC governments to standardize the regional accommodation establishments, including tourist hotels, lodges, and guest houses, with well-published rates in each member state.
Dr. Maunganidze, who chaired the meeting, told the delegates that SADC tourism has been growing steadily, attracting visitors from one member state to other member states, a situation which had attracted intra-regional visitor movements.
RETOSA is as well organizing a regional cultural tourism event in Mozambique this year, including a football match between SADC member states, he told Tanzania’s minister for Tourism Mr. Ezekiel Maige.
Responding to RETOSA board of directors comments, Mr. Maige said SADC tourism ministers will be meeting mid-this year to discuss the current situation facing regional tourism development and challenges facing the tourist industry among member states.
But the minister told the SADC tourism leaders to strive and make the region a best quality tourist destination to avoid mass tourism.
RETOSA constitutes members from the 14 Southern Africa countries, namely Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mauritius, DRC-Congo, Namibia, South Africa, Madagascar, and Tanzania.