East Africa wins global tourism award


East Africa has again proven its charm as a preferred tourism destination after emerging first runner-up at the 12th UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism.

The awards ceremony held in Madrid, Spain, recognized the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP), an organization of the region’s tourism stakeholders, for developing a multi-destination knowledge management tool. Competition for the award was stiff with 109 submissions from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Of these, 17 were selected as finalists.

The (UNWTO) award recognizes initiatives that are highly innovative and managed by a public or public-private institution that reflects tangible and sustainable improvements in policy, processes, and governance. EATP won for its multi-destination knowledge management tool that helps stakeholders package tourism products without borders.

EATP is made up of tourism players from the East Africa region among them Uganda Tourism Board, Burundi National Tourism Office, Kenya Tourism Board, Rwanda Development Board, and the Tanzania Tourist Board.

“We are one people, but with a rich cultural diversity that needs to be tapped and harnessed for the benefit of developing tourism and our economies at large,” said Carmen Nibigira, the EATP Regional Coordinator, after receiving the award on behalf of the five East African countries.

“Through this tool, regional tourism stakeholders have started trading each other’s products, packaging tourism products without borders, bench-marking among themselves and learning from each other,” added Ms. Nibigira.

“EATP was very instrumental in advocating for East Africa’s single tourist visa which is now used between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda,” says Stephen Asiimwe, the CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).

He added that through the same platform the three nations now allow their citizens to use national IDs as travel documents for citizens, free movement of tourism services, and joint marketing initiatives which run alongside the national marketing efforts.

Mr. Asiimwe says that on the marketing front, East Africa is now holding joint marketing initiatives, with the first for 2016 being the ITB Berlin tourism expo that runs from March 9-13 in Berlin Germany. At least 18 Uganda tour operators and organizations will be attending the expo this year.