The ministers raised their joint views shortly after the close of the Third EAC Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE 23) and the Magical Kenya Travel Expo in Kenyan capital Nairobi.
The latest report from the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat said that the regional ministers for wildlife and tourism wanted to carry out joint strategies that would raise the East African region on top among leading tourist destinations in the world.
Among such initiatives are product diversification that would create new tourist attractive sites other than beach and wildlife safari tourism. East African states all share similar tourist products, mostly wildlife, beach, historical, and heritage sites.
The other strategy agreed by the regional member states was the implementation of uniform criteria for the classification of hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality facilities within the region so as to ensure a uniform and quality standardization.
The 3-day Expo that closed in Nairobi late last week provided an opportunity for EAC partner states to create awareness of tourism investment opportunities and address the challenges affecting the tourism and wildlife sectors in the region.
The new EAC tourism brand, “Visit East Africa: Feel the Vibe,” was launched during the opening of the EARTE 23 aiming at promoting the East African region as a single tourist destination and a tourist investment hub in Africa.
Kenya Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, Dr. Alfred Mutua, said that the Expo brought together over 100 hosted buyers and 300 exhibitors from various countries and provided an opportunity for the East African regional states to jointly showcase their unique tourist products under the regional umbrella.
Bearing the annual theme of “Tourism for Green Growth,” the regional tourism exhibition was a catalyst for revamping the EAC region as a single tourism destination.
The EAC Secretary General, Dr. Peter Mathuki, said that the region targets to increase annual tourist arrivals from 7.2 million over the past 4 years to about 14 million within the next 2 years.
“As we diversify our tourism markets, increasing the range of our tourism product offerings is inevitable. Whereas we are quite competitive in terms, we are urging all EAC partner states to diversify their tourism products,” Dr. Mathuki said.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General for Customs, Trade and Monetary Affairs, Ms Annette Ssemuwemba, said that East African regional tourism has been on an upward trajectory after recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the EAC is collaborating with partner states to develop other products including cultural tourism, sports tourism, agro-tourism, and golf tourism among other products.
“We are developing multi-destination thematic tourism packages that will encourage visitors to travel to more than one EAC partner state in a single trip,” she said.
The Annual Tourism Expo is among the key initiatives that EAC has embarked on as part of implementing the Regional Tourism Marketing Strategy 2021 to 2025.
The first Expo was successfully hosted by Tanzania in Arusha in October 2021, while the second Regional Expo was hosted by Burundi in Bujumbura in September 2022.
Various speakers, including Ministers of Tourism from the EAC region, want to create a unified approach to tourism marketing in East Africa through various platforms.