The East African Community Partner States of the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and The United Republic of Tanzania have together set the pace in achieving fundamental stages of regional integration in the tourism and wildlife management sectors. The joint statement at the World Travel Market in London this year focuses on three main aspects: our regional achievements to date and where we are going; our safety and security; and lastly, a new innovative way to promote the region as a single tourism destination.
The EAC Partner States have embarked on the process of operationalizing the Common Market Protocol. This will facilitate the free movement of people, skills, goods and services. One great milestone that will enhance trade and movement of goods and services especially favored in the hospitality and travel industry is the removal of non-tariff barriers and enhancing a free trade area. Furthermore, the region seeks to introduce a single currency under a monetary union. The monetary union in the EAC with a combined population estimated at 135 million and with a collective GDP of US$ 79.25 billion will have a great positive economic impact for the entire region.
The tourism sector has also started harmonizing hospitality services policies and laws in the region in anticipation for a full cooperation and to sustainably utilize our resources as a region. Harmonization of hospitality services includes a focus on quality and not quantity whereas the harmonization of policies and laws will develop mechanisms on the movement of people and skills in this vibrant industry to ensure the standards of quality in hospitality are met and the promotion of a Single Tourist Destination is achieved.
However, striking the delicate balance between developing creative “products” that will continuously attract visitors to the region and sustaining the natural resources we have been blessed with, requires measures to be undertaken that will ensure the conservation and sustainable utilization of wildlife and other tourist sites in the region by harmonizing policies for the conservation of wildlife within and outside protected areas, adopting common policies on wildlife management and development, joint efforts in controlling and monitoring encroachment and poaching activities, common use of training and research facilities, and lastly developing common management plans for trans-border protected areas.
With regard to safety and security in the region and taking note of the recent terrorist attacks in parts of the Community, the Ministers responsible for tourism have agreed that Partner States should fully address the negative image portrayed and subsequent negative travel advisories issued. In this regard we will employ a positive outlook on the regional approach taken to combat these challenges about the East African tourism destinations.
This is not a new commitment, however, it has been given new impetus due to the increasing threats and now we resolve to take joint efforts to reacting against and addressing negative travel advisories that include:
i. adopting a proactive approach to pre-empt the issuing of such negative travel advisories such as consulting safety and security aspects in each country by giving relevant updates on travel information within East Africa and to the international travellers;
ii. endeavour to report honestly and use the isolation strategy, to assure the people of the Community and their visitors that adequate security is provided; and
iii. address any negative travel advisory (travel warning) jointly as a Community through a general statement issued by the East African Community Secretariat through the Secretary General to:
a) Whoever has issued the negative advisories;
b) Partner States Missions Abroad; and
c) Any global tourism forum/event like this one that will be able to communicate the message effectively.
Furthermore, the Tourism Trade Associations are urged to ensure continuous dialogue with all Commonwealth member countries and to advise Commonwealth member countries to notify the Secretariat before publishing any travel warnings.
Finally, the promotion of the EAC as a Single Tourism Destination is an ongoing task and innovative strategies are always sought to achieve this objective. This year, we introduce a new product that will be a powerful platform to collate and communicate credible regional information on the tourism/travel sector. The Regional Travel Roundabout East Africa magazine. It will be available to regional airlines in the EAC, Embassies, High Commissions, other missions abroad, and to key stakeholders especially those that endeavor to promote the region as a Single Tourist Destination.
The magazine intends to provide important and interesting information in different forms about the region to travelers and tourists moving around the East Africa Community. This magazine will complement what is provided by other tourist guide books available globally and will also be available on the EAC website.
The magazine provides pertinent and strategic information on the various investment opportunities in the region as there are numerous lucrative opportunities in improving tourism facilities, standardizing accommodation establishments with a focus on quality not quantity and many more.
In addition, it will provide credible information for planning purposes, and strategically be a channel of communication when addressing various challenges such as the travel advisories mentioned earlier.
In conclusion, the global community is welcome to East Africa, a secure and safe Destination of Wonders and Opportunities.’ Your visit will remain as memorable and unmatched preferred destination.
By Hon. Danson Mwazo,
Minister of Tourism, Chairperson of the Sectoral Council on Tourism and Wildlife Management at the EAC Joint Event