- Posted by Nelson Tumwesigye
- On May 19, 2014
- 0 Comments
As Africa’s largest travel and tourism festival commenced on Saturday 10th May 2014 in South Africa’s coastal city of Durban, East African states took its advantage to launch its single tourist visa and market themselves as a single destination.
The new cross-border travel permit was unveiled on Monday the 12th of May by ministers, high commissioners and tourism officials from Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya during the Indaba Annual Travel show in Durban, South Africa according to a statement from the Ministry of East African Community Affairs.
Vincent Karega, the Rwanda High Commissioner to South Africa, said the single tourist visa makes the three countries a competitive tourist destination besides putting the region on the world travel map. He further remarked that it was fortunate for the region that the heads of state for the respective nations recognize tourism is a driver towards economic development.
The East Africa single joint visa covers Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda and took effect in January to help in eliminating the border restrictions and easing the trade and tourism interactions among the 3 nations that have a lot in common.
Uganda’s Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Maria Mutagamba, observed that the visa will provide greater value for tourists and will facilitate the movement of people throughout the Great Rift Valley states that have a lot in common. The minister told the media in Durban that the initiative provides a diverse range of natural and cultural attractions and will help in promoting economic growth through reduction in the costs of doing business hence making the region more competitive.
The introduction of the joint tourist visa is said to have so far boosted regional travel, adding value to the tourism products of the three countries and highlighting the diversity of East Africa. With this new development, the complementarity of East Africa’s tourism products will be taken advantage of. It is now easy for one to start his vacation in Rwanda for gorillas and the genocide monuments, cross to Uganda for gorillas, rafting along the Nile and the strongest waterfalls at Murchison and wildlife in different parks before crossing to Kenya for the great animal migration and coastal life in the same package.
The tourist cross-border visa between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda now costs $100 compared to the former nationalized charges of $50 for Uganda and Kenya and $30 for Rwanda.
However as we celebrate the single visa development, it is not a guarantee that the three nations will share equally in the travel market. It is quite regrettable that while Rwanda and Kenya inject about $5m each, annually in marketing their tourism industries, Uganda’s budget for this year is only $300,000 allocated to Tourism. This was confirmed by the minister Mutagamba at the Indaba Annual Travel show in Durban when she conceded that less has been done in promoting Uganda’s tourism, a thing she attributes to limited resources that cannot match those of the neighbors.
She however encouraged Ugandans that the ministry is doing everything possible to improve the industry and expressed hope of having an increased fund for marketing tourism within the next few years.
This Africa’s largest travel and tourism festival in Durban was attended by over 20 countries from around the continent which showcased their tourism offers. The indaba festival was not until this year restricted to only southern African countries and was organized by the South African Tourism Board. The event was opened by the South African Tourism Minister, Marthinus Christoffel Johannes van Schalkwyk.