Tourism is one of the most significant sectors in all the economies of the EAC region. Its contribution to GDP is quite substantial, averaging around 10%. The sector contributes an average of about 17.0% to export earnings and generates about 7.1% of employment in the region. Moreover, tourism has important linkages with other sectors of the economy, including agriculture, manufacturing, insurance and finance.
Following the significant decline in cash flows in the tourism sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, the East African Community (EAC) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, via the “Support to East African Market-Driven and People-Centred Integration” (SEAMPEC) project, have implemented interventions in the EAC Tourism Recovery Plan since 2021. The joint successful interventions include the 1st EAC Regional Tourism EXPO, capacity building initiatives for stakeholders, the regional brand "Tembea Nyumbani," and a joint regional tourism campaign with the East African Tourism Platform (EATP).
The Secretariat, in collaboration with all seven EAC Partner States, is implementing the “East African Community Tourism Marketing Strategy 2021-2025”, which aims to position the EAC as the leading sustainable regional tourism destination in Africa. In line with this strategy, the EAC with the support of SEAMPEC successor project “Support to East African Integration” SEAMPEC II, collaborated with the EAC experts from the national bodies of the tourism industry as well as the private sector, in the successful development of the EAC Regional Tourism Promotional video, the EAC Tourism e-Catalogue, the EAC Tourism Destination brand that considers the Partner States’ unique identity and distinctiveness to attract visitors from the region and globally, and support to the annual regional and national tourism fairs in the EAC Partner States such as the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo 2023 and the upcoming 3rd EAC Regional Tourism Expo in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2023.
Additionally, GIZ has worked with the EAC Secretariat to foster cross-border tourism through the removal of barriers and restrictions for EAC tour operators and other categories of service providers for easier provision of services in the region under the Common Market. In particular, the EAC Secretariat and Partner States, with support from SEAMPEC II, have achieved the following milestones: development of the EAC minimum standards for tourism service providers; common classification criteria for accommodation establishments and restaurants and validation of a tourism barometer aimed at monitoring short-term tourism trends on a regular basis to provide tourism stakeholders with up-to-date analysis on international tourism.
In another support area, EAC and GIZ also cooperate to strengthen institutional and private sector capacities in the region to develop and jointly market the region as a single tourism destination. In 2023, selected public officials from the National Tourism Boards in the EAC Partner States were enrolled in an Executive Course via the Cornell University Scholarship for a course on “Sustainable Tourism Destination Management”.
Mr. Frederick Omondi from the Tourism Regulatory Authority in Kenya, one of the public officials enrolled in the course, stated that “The Sustainable Tourism Destination Management course was a timely intervention for me because of the very rich content and new concepts that were in sync with my areas of passion and work related responsibilities: dealing with issues around developing standards and quality assurance for sustainable tourism development in my country.” He also highlighted that the course broadened his understanding of the invisible burdens of tourism impacts on the social and natural environment. "Tourism has become a social phenomenon, and therefore, it is every individual's and collective responsibility to protect and preserve both the social and natural assets on which tourism thrives." He further underscored the need to build the capacity of relevant stakeholders in the tourism industry in natural conservation and protection so that the sector is prepared to tackle the negative impacts of climate change from a point of knowledge and understanding based on scientific data.
Find more information on SEAMPEC II here.