Following an agreement by East African Community Ministers to set standard visa rates to attract tourists to EAC member states, players in the tourism sector are optimistic that soon they will be able to package East Africa as a single tourist destination.
Speaking to Redpepper, Edwin Muzahura Head of Marketing at the Uganda Tourism Board said that the board is working together with the EACA Ministry to harmonize some features that will make the tourism package attractive.
Muzahura explained that some of the initiatives were to make a one stop shop for all touristic destinations. He said that already UTB was marketing the tourism spots in Uganda as complementary to other destinations in the region.
Ugandan Tourism sector is recorded to be growing at 21.7 % annually.
Muzahura noted that when marketing the Ugandan mountain gorillas, tourists to East Africa should be sold to similar attractions like the Ruhengere gorillas of Rwanda.
Burundi which has a small tourism industry valued at 3% of the GDP can be promoted through interests like Lake Tanganyika and its beaches.
Kenya can market the great migration of wildebeest, as well as Mount Kilimanjaro in line with Tanzania. Muzahura explained.
At the interstate level, the Kenya High Commissioner to Uganda, Major Retired Geoffrey Okanga pointed out that there are proposals of having a single entry card to parks, for EAC tourists.
Okanga said that ideally, there should be modalities to reconcile and distribute revenue earned through Revenue Authorities of complimenting countries.
In addition Okanga mentioned that once one stop border points become operational, movement of people, goods and services across the borders will be made efficient.
However AlHajji Rashid Kibowa, Commissioner for Economic Affairs at the Ministry of East African Community Affairs (EACA) said that efforts to improve the region economically, through tourism and common markets can only be realized if the implementers of the EAC protocol deliver their promises.
Ugandan’s Tourism attractions include Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi and Kibaale and Kidepo National Parks. It also boasts of natural forests, indigenous plants and mountain gorillas.