Burundi’s follies likely to have detrimental effect on tourism

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Written by Linda Hohnholz

Hot on the heels of news that Burundi will from March 1 onward halt the issuing of visitor passes and visa on arrival, comes more bad news for the country’s tourism industry.

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Hot on the heels of news that Burundi will from March 1 onward halt the issuing of visitor passes and visa on arrival, comes more bad news for the country’s tourism industry. Reliable information received from Bujumbura suggests that Burundi will not be going to the world’s biggest tourism trade fair but will instead attend an obscure trade show.

Rather than attending ITB 2015 in Berlin, Burundi has opted for reasons best known to the powers that be, to attend a trade show in Guangzhou, China. Reaction from inside Burundi and from the region was swift and uncharacteristically brutal in their judgment, doubting the sanity of those who made these catastrophic decisions and for the suspected reasons why tourists should now be kept out and one of the key western tourism shows shunned.

“This is all part of an orchestrated campaign to keep any potential foreign critics of the regime away until the elections. It all has to do with the president illegally trying to grab power for another term and their fear that journalists come in as tourists, and they cannot control the information flow. This explains the visa issue.

“For Berlin, it is also linked from where I stand. The west is a big critic of the present direction the regime is taking. Therefore, they feel that it may not be the best time to go there and promote. They know that the visa restrictions will render tourism promotion useless at this point. Therefore, they rather go to China. The Chinese have never complained or raised a single objection on how African despots run their countries as long as they get mining and construction contracts,” let one source from Bujumbura fly while a Nairobi-based regular commentator added: “How Burundi cannot come back to Berlin no one understands. They won top honors as best African exhibitor there I think, twice even, and now they stay away? That has to be political, just as that damned visa directive.

“Last year they threw themselves at us to send tourists on add-on programs to Bujumbura, and now they make it impossible by demanding visa in advance. Who has the time to apply for that? I thought the entire idea about common tourist visa and regional cooperation was to do away with such bureaucratic red tape? Someone there got it all wrong, and their tourism business will suffer big time. I invested in preparing itineraries to fly people there with Kenya Airways, and that effort has all gone to waste now.”

The Burundi Tourism office has yet to make a formal statement on the two issues, again raising suspicion that they were browbeat into accepting the two decisions which by common consensus in the region are entirely detrimental to their efforts last year to bring more tourists into the country, apart from the other fact that the hype created under the former Director General, Carmen Nibigira, has all but died down and slumber took over from activity chasing a year ago.
Burundi Tourism is now challenged to own up and speak up, addressing the core issues and not shooting the messenger.

The region’s main tourism stakeholder platforms, and key stakeholders themselves, are demanding answers, and failure to provide them or skirting the issue with politically-tainted statements will see Burundi effectively sidelining herself. Instead of growing the slice tourism could contribute to the country’s economy, it will reduce arrival numbers, revenues, and forex earnings even further while already being a very distant fifth in the East African Community rankings.

WHAT TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS ARTICLE:

  • The Burundi Tourism office has yet to make a formal statement on the two issues, again raising suspicion that they were browbeat into accepting the two decisions which by common consensus in the region are entirely detrimental to their efforts last year to bring more tourists into the country, apart from the other fact that the hype created under the former Director General, Carmen Nibigira, has all but died down and slumber took over from activity chasing a year ago.
  • Reaction from inside Burundi and from the region was swift and uncharacteristically brutal in their judgment, doubting the sanity of those who made these catastrophic decisions and for the suspected reasons why tourists should now be kept out and one of the key western tourism shows shunned.
  • It all has to do with the president illegally trying to grab power for another term and their fear that journalists come in as tourists, and they cannot control the information flow.

About the author

Linda Hohnholz

Editor in chief for eTurboNews based in the eTN HQ.

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