The five East African Community partner states have upped the antes, organizing a joint event at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London.
Speaking at the EAC joint event, Uganda’s Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Dr Maria Mutagamba, said that Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania have embarked on the operationalization of the Common Market Protocol.
The Minister reiterated that promoting the EAC as a Single Tourism Destination is the only way to optimize the region’s potential. The single tourist visa is now operational in three countries i.e. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and sales of multiple cross border destination packages have increased significantly in recent years due to strengthened cross border tour operators’ cooperation, added Dr Mutagamba.
‘Since it was adopted in 2009, the Common Market Protocol has enabled the gradual free movement of people, capital, goods and services especially in the hospitality and travel industry sector where the removal of non-tariff barriers has shown to be one of the stimulus factors,’ a release by the EAC Secretariat states in part.
This year the event focused on quality, improved services and standards, tourism opportunities, safety and security and lowered investment thresholds in the region in promoting the a single tourist destination.
According to the release, the EAC has a combined population of over 135 million people and an estimated collective GDP of 85.00 billion U.S. dollars.
Dr Mutagamba said tourism plays a key role in fostering regional economic growth and improving regional tourist products, such as the standardization of accommodation and other hospitality services, important ingredients for the UK market.
She also informed the participants who attended the event that safety and security are key to fostering tourism development in the region, before calling for increased investments in the tourism sector.
She disclosed several incentives granted in the region including a tax-free environment for a fixed period, quick registration services for the new companies and professional on-sites guidance and friendly financing mechanisms.
According to Dr Mutagamba, the notable tourist attractions in the EAC region include the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda (Bwindi and Mgahinga) and in Rwanda; the second largest migration (of wildebeest) from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya; the Source of the Nile in Uganda; and the ‘roof of Africa, the Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Dr Mutagamba urged all the tourists to always plan their visits to the region using credible information. One such tool is the regional travel magazine ‘Travelers Around and About East Africa’ which will continue to provide important and useful information in different forms about the region to visitors moving around the East Africa Community. The magazine will also provide pertinent and strategic information on the various lucrative investment opportunities in the region ranging from improving tourism facilities, standardizing accommodation establishments and many more.
The event, one of the leading trade shows related to the travel industry, was graced by UK Buyers, High Commissioners from the EAC countries in the UK, Directors of Tourism and Wildlife Management, and tour operators from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania