- Annual tourist arrivals to the EAC are anticipated to increase to about 14.05 million by 2025, from the 7.2 million recorded in 2019.
- Kenya targets 5.5 million international tourist arrivals and a $6.3 billion annual contribution by 2028.
- Fast-tracking of the EAC Single Tourism Visa remains critical to sell the region as a single tourism investment hub.
Diversification of products beyond traditional attractions and joint promotion of the region is a catalyst to revamping the East African Community as a single tourism market. This call on a single tourism market was underscored by regional Ministers responsible for EAC Affairs and Tourism and Wildlife Management who converged for the opening of the 3rd EAC Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE’23) and the Magical Kenya Travel Expo in Nairobi, Kenya.
The three-day Expo that kicked off on Monday provides an opportunity for EAC Partner States to create awareness of tourism investment opportunities and address the challenges affecting the tourism and wildlife sectors in the region.
East Africa’s new tourism market brand
The new EAC tourism market brand, “Visit East Africa – Feel the Vibe,” was also launched at the opening of the expo and aims at promoting the region as a single investment hub.
Speaking while officially launching the forum, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in charge of Tourism and Wildlife, Dr. Alfred Mutua, who was also the Chief Guest, called on the EAC partner states to work together and market the region as a single tourism destination.
This is in order to attract more business from the sector, create jobs and boost economies as tourism accounts up to 10 per cent of the bloc’s GDP and 7.2 per cent of jobs in the region.
According to the minister, the EAC should adopt an integrated tourism marketing strategy in order to enhance competitiveness, attract more tourists and increased earnings.
“When you look at the population of Kenya, for instance, we have an average of about 53 million and in 2022 we hosted 1.48 million tourists. In Tanzania as well, the country boasts a population of 64 million and received around 1.4 million visitor arrivals in a similar period. We should work towards improving these numbers,” he said.
This will ensure that EAC citizens fully benefit from the tourism sector, Dr Mutua said during this year’s expo that has brought together over 100 hosted buyers and 300 exhibitors, providing an opportunity for the region to jointly showcase its unique resources. “As a region we need to invest additional resources towards regional tourism promotion,” Dr Mutua remarked.
Coordinating EAC states to market tourism
He disclosed that his ministry will be coordinating the EAC States in charting ways to collaborate with each other to harness strengths and develop tourism market circuits that would ease travel and promote interactions across the diverse cultures that define East Africa.
“The EARTE expo is a platform to drive conversations on how best we can work together as a joint marketing unit to realize our tourism growth goals within the region,” said Mutua.
Tanzania and Burundi have previously hosted the EARTE Expo, and now it is Kenya’s turn to showcase its potential as a tourism market and investment destination.
Dr. Mutua added that the Kenya is focusing on infrastructure improvement, security, incentives and marketing campaigns to sustain tourism growth. “As part of our five-year plan, we target 5.5 million international tourist arrivals and a $6.3 billion annual contribution by 2028,” said Dr. Mutua.
Speaking at the launch, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Customs, Trade and Monetary Affairs, Ms. Annette Ssemuwemba, said that regional tourism market has been on an upward trajectory after recovering from the effects of the pandemic.
Ms. Ssemuwemba who represented the EAC Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki, said that the annual tourist arrivals are anticipated to increase to about 14.05 million by 2025, from the 7.2 million recorded in 2019.
“As we diversify our tourism markets, increasing the range of our tourism product offerings is inevitable. Whereas we are quite competitive in terms of beach and wildlife safari tourism, we are urging all EAC Partner States to diversify their tourism products,” said the Deputy Secretary General.
Ms. Ssemuwemba said that the EAC is collaborating with Partner States to develop other products such as cultural tourism, sport tourism, agro-tourism, and golf tourism among others.
“We are developing multi-destination thematic tourism packages that will encourage visitors to travel to more than one EAC Partner State in a single trip,” she added.
The Annual Tourism Expo is among the key initiatives that EAC has embarked on as part of implementing the Regional Tourism Marketing Strategy 2021-2025. The 1st Expo was successfully hosted by the United Republic of Tanzania in Arusha in October 2021 while the 2nd Regional EXPO was hosted by the Republic of Burundi in Bujumbura in September 2022.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development, Peninah Malonza, hailed EAC Partner States for their participation in the forum.
“Through cooperation, we have developed uniform criteria for the classification of hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities within the region, in order to ensure increased quality standardization,” she said.
Single Tourism Visa
Speaking at the event, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, the first Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda and Minister for EAC Affairs, stated that it was critical for the region to make use of its natural resources such as the Lake Victoria.
“Fast-tracking of the EAC Single Tourism Visa is critical to sell the region as a single tourism investment hub. I also urge the Partner States to fast-track the development of the EAC Tourism and Wildlife Protocol,” she said.
On his part, the GIZ SEAMPEC Cluster Manager, Mr. Bjoern Richter, said that a joint catalogue on the offerings of the regional tourism sector was recently developed and adopted by the EAC Partner States.
“As GIZ, we look forward to working with the EAC Secretariat and EAC Partner States Tourism Boards as well as the East African Tourism Platform on making the EAC region a widely recognised global brand,” he said.
Also present at the event were the South Sudan Minister of Wildlife Conservation, Rizik Zakaria Hassan, and the High Commissioner for Rwanda to Kenya Martin Ngoga among others.