The East African Community Partner States of the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and The United Republic of Tanzania have gone another step ahead in regional integration by organizing joint event at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London.
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.
Speaking at the EAC joint event, Hon. Dr. Maria Mutagamba, Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Uganda, stated that the EAC Partner States have fully embarked on the operationalization of a Common Market Protocol. With a combined population above 135 million as well as a collective estimated GDP of 85.00 billion U.S. dollars the Common Market will have a positive economic impact for the entire EAC Region.
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.
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 whereby showing quality is more important than quantity will go a long way in reassuring our UK market of their continued support and increased visits to the Region.
She further stated that sustainable and optimal utilization of the resources as a region requires striking the balance between developing creative “products” that will continuously attract visitors to the region and sustaining the natural resources the region have been blessed with.
Hon. 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 co-operation, added Dr Maria.
The East African Community Region has numerous unique and awesome attractions. The costal zones of Mombasa and Zanzibar’s wonderful beaches and smiling faces of the coastal people will mesmerize you. The Heart of Africa in the land of a thousand hills you will meet our closest ape relative (Mountain gorilla) residing at the national park bordering Rwanda and the Pearl of Africa, Uganda, you will see more of them at Bwindi National Park. East Africa has even more to offer such as the world second largest migration at Serengeti – Maasai Mara; the source of the famous Nile river without forgetting Mt. Kilimanjaro the roof of Africa, stated the Minister.
She informed the participants who attended the event that safety and security is key to fostering tourism development in the region. Due to the increasing security threats from neighbors, joint efforts have helped minimize the consequences and ensured a durable solution. In this regard, the Ministers responsible for tourism have been fully addressing the negative image portrayed and subsequent negative travel advisories issued.
Hon. Minister also called for the EAC’s to increased foreign investment in the tourism sector. Though investment in this sector has recently registered significant increase, more is welcomed as East African countries are making strides in providing more enabling environment for foreign investors.
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.
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 was graced by UK Buyers, Partner States Tour Operators, High Commissioners from the EAC Countries in the UK, Directors of Tourism and Wildlife Management. Vibrant songs and dances from various regions of the Community entertained guests.