“The EAC Integration Efforts in the Tourism Sector Present Opportunities for Tour Operators like me to Grow my Business” (GIZ)

In recent years, the EAC Secretariat, in cooperation with GIZ, has made a series of efforts to support the private sector across the EAC to recover from the impacts of the pandemic. A special focus lies on the hard-hit tourism sector, which is a key sector for economies in East Africa.

One of the efforts aimed at recovery of tourism businesses was a 2021 capacity development campaign by EAC and GIZ in partnership with the East African Tourism Platform. More than 3,000 youth entrepreneurs in tourism from EAC Partner States attended the training sessions in all Partner States which covered areas like tour guiding, digital marketing, and sustainability.

Among them was Dative Uwimana, a vibrant young lady from Burundi who had just founded the first female-led tourism agency in her country – Ikaze Ventures. Now, looking back in 2023, she describes the sessions as a timely intervention for the regional tourism sector that was still grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I got a better understanding of the EAC tourism sector through the strategic analysis presentations and learnt how to price, market and sell my product. Furthermore, I gained useful insights on how to adapt my business operations as the region is recovering from the pandemic,” she notes.

Speaking about her business, Dative highlights, “Before the training, Ikaze Ventures could go one year without tangible profits. By leveraging the networks I established in the workshops, I have gotten more clients from countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and DRC in the last two years.”

She believes that there are many untapped opportunities that can be found in marketing the EAC as a Single Tourist Destination. In partnership with GIZ via the Support to East African Integration (SEAMPEC II) programme, the EAC Secretariat is currently implementing the EAC Tourism and Marketing Strategy (2021-2025). As one cornerstone of joint regional tourism marketing, EAC and Partner States established the EAC Regional Expo as an annual event where the public and private sector collaborate to showcase EAC’s tourist attractions to the world. GIZ has been supporting the two regional expos in Tanzania (2021) and Burundi (2022) as well as national expos in Tanzania (2022) and Uganda (2023) bringing together delegates and private sector representatives from all EAC Partner States to showcase their offerings and build networks for joint promotion of the region.

Dative, who partook in the exhibitions in Burundi and Uganda as part of the Burundian team stresses, “The EAC integration efforts in the tourism sector such as the joint expos present opportunities for tour operators like me to grow my business by collaborating with other operators across the region and offer cross-cutting tourism products across the EAC Partner states. This was not possible before when each of us only operated within our countries.”

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She goes on, “The regional expos have been a great platform to engage clients from East Africa and showcase Burundi to the world. I engaged clients at the 2023 Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo and now have clients from Uganda who will be visiting Burundi!”

As many EAC youth continue to leverage the digital space for income, Dative urges them to join the efforts aimed at promoting the EAC as a one tourist destination by sharing their experiences. “The EAC is beautiful and open for investment in tourism. If we don’t tell our stories our way, others will do it.” As the pioneer women-led tourism agency, she believes that more women should join the tourism sector and maximize the opportunities therein. “Women are gifted in hospitality, storytelling, and communication. I would really love to see more women tour guides or women owning hotels and restaurants in Burundi.”

“I am thankful to the EAC Secretariat and the EAC-GIZ for always supporting the SMEs in the EAC through capacity building and regional expos. I look forward to more activities, especially for the youth in Burundi.”

Dative and other young people in Burundi are currently working towards establishing an association of Tour Guides that join efforts in promoting the Visit Burundi brand in the EAC.

Find more information on the Ikaze Ventures here.

Find more information on SEAMPEC II support in the tourism sector here.