East Africa has recorded impressive achievements in the realm of tourism owing to the conscious efforts by EAC Partner States to work together in promoting growth in the sector. The success of the tourism sector has benefited from immense private sector investments in hotels, transportation, marketing and product development, and dedicated government efforts in conservation. One of the priorities of the EAC is promoting its Partner States as a single destination, where tourists can visit various sites across EAC Partner States easily and cheaply through a single multi-entry visa system thereby creating benefits across the region for the tourism sector. In addition, Partner States have agreed on joint promotion of tourist attraction sites, the adoption of EAC preferential rates for EAC citizens, which are applicable to public tourist sites such as parks and museums, and harmonisation of criteria for Hotels as well as other accommodation establishments.
Due to restraints on international arrivals arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector in EAC Partner States is experiencing an unprecedented decline since March 2020. To turn this around and develop the domestic and regional market as an additional and untapped source of revenue complimenting international tourism, the EAC is undertaking to raise the awareness of EAC Partner States’ citizens about the offers of domestic and regional tourism. There is a lot of untapped potential in domestic and regional tourism. Tour operators and services providers must therefore reorient their strategies and diversify the products and services packages, and tailor them to the consumers and regional markets. This can include tailored itineraries to re-configured international packages and delivered at a regional rate that is both preferential and affordable. This will not only boost the sector but lead to faster recovery and offset the losses that were incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Objective: Increase visitations to key tourist sites and consumption of tourism services by domestic and regional markets.
Approach: To tap into the potential of regional and local tourism consumption, tour operators and services providers must reorient their strategies and diversify the products and services packages, and tailor them to the consumers and regional markets. This can include tailored itineraries to re-configured international packages and delivered at a regional rate that is both preferential and affordable. This will not only boost the sector but lead to faster recovery and offset the losses that were incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SEAMPEC promotes domestic and regional tourism through the implementation of the EAC Tourism Recovery Plan. This is accomplished through sensitisation and capacity building of the respective stakeholders, development of digital stories and diversification as well as development of new products and services to cater to regional markets. Activities include:
Find more information on SEAMPEC here.
Tourism is a key income stream for EAC Partner States. Hence, building the industry and creating benefits for tourism operators and citizens within the Common Market has been a focus for the EAC. Ongoing efforts include market access for EAC Tourism Services providers without discrimination based on nationality as well as harmonising the standards in the region by developing common criteria for the classification of tourist accommodation establishments and restaurants. This guarantees a quality standard and predictability in the expected quality of service in the region. However, there is need to promote more cooperation and collaboration to exploit the regional potential as well as resource sharing and joint efforts for resource conservation. Tour operators should therefore be able to move and provide their services in the region without cumbersome barriers and be able to utilise and leverage on the available potential the region has to offer.
Objective: Develop joint proposals to remove barriers and restrictions for EAC tour operators for provision of services in the EAC region.
Approach: SEAMPEC facilitates the free movement of tourism services and services providers through the removal of barriers and restrictions such as registration requirements for tour operators and tour guides. Activities include:
Find more information on SEAMPEC here.
Objective: IIDEA and IRTF showcase innovative EAC integration stories in the tourism sector with the objective of raising citizen-awareness and supporting private sector initiatives that romote regional tourism and the harmonisation of tourism regulations.
Approach: IIDEA and IRTF support small-scale projects in the EAC tourism sector to foster cooperation among young tour guides, tour companies and government authorities in the tourism sector to develop an East African network in the tourism industries and facilitate the free movement of visitors as well as of people working in the tourism industry across borders.
Examples of supported projects:
Realising that out of the few women who study and train for tourism guiding only a very small number actually work in the profession, Kigezi Biota Tours, in cooperation with the Safari Guides Associations and Tour Operators Associations of Uganda and Rwanda and supported by IRTF, developed the project “Unlocking Women’s Potential in Tourist Guiding in Uganda and Rwanda”. Apprenticeships and mentorships in tourist guiding give women an opportunity to acquire first hand practical, on-the-job experience and skills that will enable them to find employment with tour operators or as independent guides. Over 100 women have taken advantage of this new opportunity in tourist guiding.
Find more information on IIDEA and IRTF as part of the SEAMPEC programme here.