East Africa is one of the leading tourist destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is majorly attributed to its natural resource endowment. Available statistics indicate that tourism contributed more than US$ 12 billion to the regional GDP in 2012 which is equivalent to 13 % of regional GDP. In spite of that, the region does not rank favorably as a competitive destination. Tourism’s potential to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the region is hampered by supply-side constraints; thus limiting its competitiveness. These constraints include: unfavorable policy and regulatory framework; uncertain business environment, over reliance on traditional source markets, ill-equipped and in some cases poorly trained human resources and untapped cultural resources.

EABC in collaboration with the East Africa Tourism Platform is calling for policy and regulatory reforms to address the aforementioned constraints in each partner state and by extension the entire EAC.

The core focus is the development of regional tourism within the EAC. EAC as a key source market has not been adequately developed to harness its potential. Partner states’ tourism policies have overlooked the region as a viable and potentially sustainable source market. Our objective is to set domestic and regional tourism at the forefront of tourism development in East Africa.

The following are the key priority areas of intervention:

Open Sky Policy: Domestic and regional tourism can only thrive when air costs are competitive and destinations better connected. Air ticket costs in East Africa should be reduced and made competitive on the basis of growing regional and domestic markets. EATP is proposing that all Partner States to fully implement the 5th Freedom and adopt EAC air transport regulations on liberalization of air transport. EAC partner states need to ensure that taxes and other air travel service charges are harmonized across the region. Further, there is need for an increase in the number and routes of low-cost carriers to further stimulate trade and movement of people and goods.
Harmonized Visa Fee: Each Partner State has established its national visa at between US $100 and US$30. EATP is proposing a uniform visa fee for each country and full implementation of the Single Tourist Visa (EAC) for Burundi and Tanzania.

Harmonized Tourism Service Licenses: Approval and licensing requirements should be harmonized across the region so that tourism operators face standardized regulatory guidelines in each and every country. EATP is proposing that EAC Partner States agree on a set of licenses for tourism businesses to operate in the region.

Identify and remove all Non-Tariff Barriers: Non-Tariff Barriers are deliberately delaying regional tourism integration. East Africa as one destination is serving one common market; EATP is calling for trade liberalization based on access to one market and removal of bureaucratic red tape that is impeding tourism trade, movement of goods, services and people.

Joint Tourism Marketing Strategy: All Partner States should allocate financial resources to promote inter and intra-regional tourism. Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have joined their efforts to market themselves at two international trade-tourism fairs (WTM London and ITB- Berlin) under one banner and stand. EATP is calling the other Partner States to join their counterparts in promoting Destination East Africa.

EABC and East African Tourism Platform therefore recommend the following;

1. Open sky policy: For the groundbreaking modalities already agreed among Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda under NCIP, 2017 was earmarked as the year of actions. Open sky agreements was meant to engender growth of East Africa as a continental hub with resultant multiplier effects on tourism and regional economy. This was to open up traveling within EAC, grow domestic air travel market, expand new routes and introduce more competition.

2. Harmonization of visa fees: Having implemented the Single Tourist Visa, use of National IDs and interstate passes, it is time to tackle the disparities in visa fees and converge towards a harmonized visa fee.

3. For marketing purposes, reaching out to existing or new markets, EAC needs to standout and look at the interests of regional tourism. EATP believes the cost of the joint visa, should not be a hindering factor in the progress towards developing East Africa as one destination.

4. Duplicity of licenses: Together as one destination with clear and harmonized licensing guidelines and procedures, tourism businesses will be in a better position to embrace regional tourism.