- East African Community member states are now working together to market tourism as a bloc through the just launched annual regional tourism exhibition, aiming to raise the number of tourists visiting the region after COVID-19 pandemic devastation.
- The African Tourism Board (ATB) had participated in the first regional tourism exhibition for East African member states.
- The ATB Chairman Mr. Cuthbert Ncube had contributed the first East African Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE) that ended last week after three days of business.
Cuthbert Ncube, the ATB chairman expressed during the expo that the East African Community (EAC) member states have taken the right step towards the objectivity of the African agenda to see EAC as a bloc joining hands in an inclusive and well-coordinated approach to develop African Tourism.
The East African Community (EAC) is a regional intergovernmental organization of 6 Partner States: the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
He said that ATB will be working closely with EAC members to enhance the quick development of regional tourism in the bloc.
Zanzibar President Dr. Hussein Mwinyi had unveiled a plague to launch the annual East African Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE) to be rotational among each member state of the EAC bloc.
Dr. Mwinyi said that EAC partner states needed to redefine and review policies that slack down the development of tourism in the region for similar tourist products and services.
Launching of an annual EARTE would open new avenues to the EAC region and explore avenues and new strategies that would market the region as a single destination, Mwinyi said.
Wildlife, natural features including mountains, ocean and beaches, nature, and historical sites are the leading tourist attractions pulling most foreign and regional visitors to the EAC region.
Travel and visa issuance restrictions, lack of coordination among the EAC region have been retarding the development of regional tourism.
The EAC partner states must get back to their drawing boards to salvage the tourism sector by the fast-track the conclusion of the EAC Protocol on Tourism and Wildlife Management, also strengthening the Classification of Tourism accommodation facilities, members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) had suggested to EAC governments.
The lack of a well-coordinated and digitized information exchange mechanism for the development of joint tourist visas had greatly affected regional tourism development, mostly during the COVID-19 pandemic period.
The EAC Secretary General Dr. Peter Mathuki said that international tourist arrivals in the EAC region had steadily been increasing with varying rates in each partner state. It was reaching 6.98 million in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
The number of tourists arriving in the EAC region had dropped by about 67.7 percent last year (2020) to about 2.25 million international tourists, losing US dollars 4.8 billion from tourist revenues.
The EAC region had earlier projected to attract 14 million tourists in 2025 before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Development of multi-destination tourism packages and tourism investment opportunities and incentives, combating of poaching and illegal wildlife trade were the key strategies need to for regional tourism development, Dr. Mathuki said.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has negatively affected the benefits of tourism with massive jobs and revenue, also undermined wildlife conservation efforts due to a reduction in fees collected from visitors by the National Parks and heritage sites.
Travel restrictions on tourists crossing the EAC borders had greatly affected the cross-border tourism, then hindering the movement of international and regional tourists from entering the neighboring countries, mostly Kenya and Tanzania which share similar attractions.
In response to the pandemic outbreak, the EAC Secretariat has developed a Tourism Recovery Plan that will guide the region in taking tourism back to the pre-pandemic levels.
East African member states share tourism and wildlife as common resources through the cross-border movements of wildlife, tourists, tour operators, airlines, and hotel owners.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti ecosystem, Mkomazi, and Tsavo National Parks, the Indian Ocean beaches, chimpanzee and gorilla parks in Western Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda are the key and leading regional tourism resources shared between the EAC member states.
The EAC Council of tourism and wildlife ministers have endorsed on July 15th this year, an EAC Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE) to be hosted by partner states on a rotational basis.
Tanzania was selected to host the first EARTE with a theme of “Promotion of Resilient Tourism for Inclusive Socio-economic Development.” The Expo closed early last week.