East Africa woos European tourists with single visa


East African countries including Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda are jointly wooing European travelers with their newly introduced East African single visa which took effect in January.

The above three countries which are part of the five-member East Africa Community (EAC) bloc exhibited their joint single tourist visa to the world during the ongoing International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin, Germany on Friday.

Heads of delegations from the three EAC nations that are part of a tripartite agreement praised the move on the visa, launched three weeks ago by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda as a bold move that will develop regional integration and ease the movement of tourists across the region hence promoting tourism in the three countries.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for East Africa Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Phyllis Kandie said whereas in the past tourists visiting the three countries had to seek separate visas in a cumbersome and costly process, all they now have to do is to acquire one visa at 100 U.S. dollars and visit the three states as many times as they wished for a period of three months.
This new process will harmonize immigration procedures, help curb cross- border insecurity, enable tourists have a one-stop border check point and generally open the region for more travellers,” she said in a statement received in Nairobi on Saturday.

The lack of a regional common visa has been a major drawback towards marketing East Africa and enhancing tourism development as a single tourist destination.

Foreign tour operators have complained of the hardships in the previous immigration procedures at border entry points for those who wish to cover various circuits in East Africa.

In particular, the requirement for tourists to disembark from Kenya tour vehicles to board the Tanzanian vehicles while crossing into Tanzania has been a major point of complain by the international and local tour operators.

Kenya allows tour vehicles from the East Africa Community (EAC) to operate in the country. Industry watchers say the common visa will ease travel arrangements for those intending to tour East African attractions.

Previously, foreign tourists visiting EAC countries are required to stamp their passports in each EAC country visited. The EAC is also in the final stages of implementing a single visa for the five member states.
The single tourist visa resulted from a joint initiative and decision made by the Heads of State of the respective countries.
Before the establishment of the single entry visa for Kenya was 50 dollars, for Uganda was 50 dollars and Rwanda was 30 dollars.

Tourism arrivals and revenue on the upswing in Rwanda

Figures released by the Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department confirm the continued trend of sectoral growth in tourism, as arrival numbers in 2013 rose by 6 percent to 1,137,000 visitors while earnings in the sector rose by 4 percent to now US$293.6 million.

This makes tourism once again the leading economic sector ahead of agricultural produces, with indications that 2014 will also show a growth again.

Rwanda is presently participating in the world’s largest tourism fair, ITB in Berlin, Germany, where the country shares a stand with neighbors Uganda and Kenya. As one of the key aspects of this year’s promotion came the launch yesterday evening of the long awaited common tourist visa for Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.

Lower than usual sales forecasts though for gorilla trekking permits have brought to the forefront some concerns if, like in neighboring Uganda, Rwanda too should introduce a low season rate, which in Uganda now stands at US$350 for foreign nonresident visitors to the prized gorillas while in comparison, Uganda now charges US$600 during the high season for a gorilla permit while Rwanda charges US$750 year round.

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