East African tourism ministers fed up with negative images
East Africa is less troubled than some of its Western and Northern neighbors but despite smart moves by Tanzania, the region has taken steps back in recent years, from political unrest in Kenya to rampant corruption and offensive politics in Uganda.
Ugandan tourism minister Maria Mutagamba has said that East African Community (EAC) partner states ministers responsible for tourism have agreed to fully address the negative image portrayed and the negative travel advisories about the region.
“With regard to safety and security in the region and taking note of the recent terrorist attacks in parts of the community, ministers responsible for tourism in East Africa have agreed that partner states should fully address the negative image portrayed and subsequent negative travel advisories issued,” she told participants who attended the EAC joint event at the Internationale Tourism-Böurse Berlin (ITB) in Berlin, Germany.
“We are employing a positive outlook on the regional approach taken to combat these challenges about the East African tourism destinations, tourism and trade associations should ensure continuous dialogue with all Commonwealth member countries and to advice Commonwealth member countries to notify the EAC secretariat before publishing any travel warnings,” she reiterated.
The campaign against the negative travel advisories and portrayal will be among the several projects that the East African Community has lined up to increase tourism earnings from $7 billion to $16 billion annually by 2020.
However, according to the EAC Principal Tourism Officer Shedrack Mashauri, the plan also includes doubling the number of tourists from 5 million to 10 million annually while the planned investments are expected to reach $3.95 billion by 2020, up from the current $1.65 billion.
He told the media in Arusha, Tanzania recently that the projects include the introduction of a single tourist visa, a single EAC passport, classification of hotels, increased marketing spend and training of personnel in the hospitality industry.
Mashauri explained that while Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania hope to record increased tourist numbers, Kenya is projecting stagnated revenues following cases of insecurity in the country, especially in Coast Province.
Tourist numbers from the traditional markets of Europe, one of the EAC’s most lucrative tourism markets, dropped in 2012 due to financial woes in their home countries.
In 2011, Kenya’s tourism industry netted Ksh98 billion ($1.2 billion), a 32 per cent rise from the previous years.
In 2012, Tanzania invested $23 million while Kenya and Rwanda invested $20 million and $5 million respectively in marketing. Uganda’ spent $700,000 on tourism marketing.
Minister Mutagamba explained that as the East African region operationalizes the Common Market Protocol to better facilitate the free movement of people, skills, goods and services, the protocol marks a milestone that will enhance the hospitality and travel industry.
EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, Jessica Eriyo highlighted some key milestones and developments in the Tourism and Wildlife sectors in the last few years.
“These achievements are for you to grasp the opportunities and tasks that lie ahead of us which are being explored and implemented in order to sustainably utilize our resources as a region,” she said.
Among the wonders East Africa is home to include Mount Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa with 5895 metres above sea level and the largest free standing mountain in the world, the Serengeti Migration, the longest and largest overland migration in the world.
The Serengeti spans over 18,640 square miles, the Nile River is the longest river in the world stretching 4,132 miles (6,650 km) which traverses across a number of countries has its source in the region and the region boasts the largest unbroken caldera in the world, the Ngorongoro Crater.
It measures 12 miles across, this Garden of Eden is home to over 30,000 animals including the rare black rhino.