East Africa Single Visa adaptation remains slow

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Head of Investment Promotion and Implementation at Rwanda development board Louise Kanyonga

Head of Investment Promotion and Implementation at Rwanda development board Louise Kanyonga

The Single Tourist Visa for the East African Community (EAC) that was launched on Thursday, 20th February, 2014 is facing poor implementation as Industry players in the Tourism sector decry the slow uptake just 10 months of its existence.

During its commencement early this year, expectations were geared towards a notable boom in the number of tourists who were anticipated to visit the region before the end of 2014.

According to the Head of Investment Promotion and Implementation at Rwanda development board Louise Kanyonga; only 1,560 of such visas had been sold so far; this was a direct result of the insecurity situation in the region, most notable in Kenya.

She also attributed the situation to knowledge gaps as most tour operators were unaware of the products to sell in other parts of the region.

“Most operators in Rwanda don’t know what they sell in Kenya and Uganda and vice- versa, this lack of awareness has made tour operators unable to sell the Single Tourism Visa. We have held business-to-business meetings to increase awareness,” Kanyonga explained.

A turning point may be in view; however, as she also disclosed that the federation had received a grant of $100,000 from Trademark East Africa (TMEA) to help with marketing and creating awareness about the regional Single Tourist Visa and the use of Identity Cards in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

This is expected to ensure the three countries have a significant share of the 50 million visitors who come to the continent annually, thus further spurring cross-border economic and tourism growth.

With the funding, the Tourism Federation can concentrate on motivating such tourism players as tour operators and travel agencies to take advantage of the twin initiatives to grow the regional tourism sector.

Key to achieving this, according to her, will be the creation of boards in Tourism related parastatals that will offer guidance and oversight especially in times of crises. This is a recommendation she has made to the Kenyan government.

Commenting on the same issue, Mike Macharia, CEO of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, disclosed that the EAC will seek to further incentivize diplomats working in the community by offering 30 days of free movement in any part of the member countries once they acquire the Single Tourism Visa.

“We have realized that this segment has not been tapped into, so we are looking for ways to ensure that even as we lobby for use of national identity cards as travel documents, expatriates can be accorded similar privileges as regional citizens,” he said.

He added that this issue will be a central discussion theme at the next meeting of the EAC heads of state.

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have already adopted the joint visa that will facilitate free movement of tourists and citizens alike for 90 days at a fee of Sh9,000 ($100), while Tanzania and Burundi are yet to join in.

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About the author

Olive Ndaka is the Junior Editor for RwandaEye. An investor and young entrepreneur, she is a quick learner and has contributed many articles for RwandaEye in Kinyarwanda.

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