The Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) participated at the regional technical committee engagement for The Great Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) as part of the association’s partnership drive. The delegation convened in Rwanda from March 17-20, 2022, to discuss a collaboration between Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda with regards to tourism business.
The Great Virunga covers areas in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo that are of key interest to the tour operators in all the mentioned countries. AUTO is a permanent member of these committees as a key tourism stakeholder in the Great Virunga Landscape.
Representing the Association, the CEO, Albert Kasozi, voiced the concerns of the Ugandan tour operators to be catered for in the GVTC regional tourism development plan which is yet to be launched. The CEO also secured meetings with key tourism stakeholders in Rwanda including an engagement with the Rwanda Chamber of Tourism and the East African Tourism Platform, accompanied by the GVTC and (Uganda Wildlife Authority) UWA officials.
Key areas of discussion focused on the need to work closely with the private sector of Rwanda.
The areas of concern are joint tourism marketing; joint trade show participation and organization; joint roadshows, i.e., regionally and internationally; and joint tourism research among others. It was agreed that a working framework (a Memorandum of Understanding) should be generated to achieve the said objectives and that the parties bring ideas together through the MOU and identify the areas that they would like to address as the private sector. They agreed on timelines within which to achieve what was discussed.
AUTO also engaged with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Tourism Department at the board’s headquarters and the Uganda Embassy in Kigali on March 21, 2022. At the RDB, the parties discussed requirements and procedures of crossing the border with tourists and how RDB can facilitate the movement of Ugandan tour operators in Rwanda, COVID-19 protocols of entering national parks in Rwanda, and the establishment of partnerships and working relationships between AUTO and RDB through the Rwanda Chamber of Tourism (the umbrella body for the tourism private sector in Rwanda).
Also discussed was access to gorilla permits and other tourism services in Rwanda. AUTO requested RDB regulate the relationships between Uganda tour operators and Rwanda tour operators including arranging FAM trips for Uganda tour operators to boost their product knowledge.
The parties also discussed the status of East African Tourist Visas in Rwanda whereby travelers from any country can obtain a multiple entry visa that allows entry to the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Rwanda, and the Republic of Uganda for tourism over a period of 90 days.
At the Uganda Embassy in Kigali, the parties also discussed how to promote tourism and create opportunities for Uganda tour operators in Rwanda, the need for a liaison person at the embassy to work with tourism stakeholders directly, and how the embassy can work together with the private sector to promote tourism business. RDB officials promised to share with AUTO an official communication about the protocols and requirements of doing tourism business in Kigali.