Efforts to launch a joint marketing strategy aimed at promoting the East African Community (EAC) as a single travel package for tourists appear to have hit a snag as the leaders of member countries have been unable to come to mutually acceptable agreement as yet.
According to the plan, a tourist would apply for a visa in any of the five states (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania) and this visa would be applicable for travel to all the countries in the region. Tourist boards from Kenya,
Uganda and Tanzania are the joint inventors of the plan, a cross-cutting measure which aims to standardize all tourism facilities in the region, including the visas, the hotels and other tourism facilities in region
However, this has not stopped the ongoing joint marketing drive that is being conducted by state-run tourism agencies to showcase the East African region as a single destination.
The EAC aims to introduce tourist visas, allowing tourists to travel through member states with minimum red tape and visa formalities.
Dr Ongonga Achieng, the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB), said the plan to introduce the tourist visas has been facing what he termed as “impediments” which could be sorted soon by the EAC Council of Ministers.
The EAC Secretariat has listed the single tourist visa among its foremost future plans and had initially hoped that it would be agreed upon by the five states, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.
Achieng said: “There are tourists who ask to visit the entire region all the way to Zanzibar but you cannot promise them a single visa as of now. We, as the heads of the tourism agencies, can agree but it is the ministers of immigration to agree on how to implement it.”
The region’s failure to agree on a joint visa for tourists, has, however, not crippled the joint promotional activity. Dr Achieng said the joint marketing strategy has been applied during international tourism exhibitions, where the tents of all the five states in the region have been placed close to each other.