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East Africa Tourism

Common visa: A priority for East African tourism executives

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa  Aug 13, 2008

The recent meeting in Kigali of the East African tourist board chief executives was the perfect event to discuss the matter of the common visa.

Visitors from abroad pay quite a sum if they want to travel from one country into the region. Depending on their port of entry, a family of four can run into nearly US$1,000 in fees when traveling across East Africa.

Kenya has gone a step ahead in the right direction when granting re-entry free of extra cost when flying from Nairobi to Entebbe, Kigali or Tanzania and then returning to Kenya. However, the other countries have not followed suit in spite of regular verbal commitments to the contrary.

Uganda for a long time was the most visitor-friendly country in the region with no fees at all for most visitors, but this was overturned some years ago. Efforts are underway to review this decision so as to attract more visitors and reach the magical 1 million arrival figures sooner rather than later.

Rwanda, too, exempts certain nationalities from having to pay for visa, which has helped the country to drive visitor numbers up year after year.

The region is also due for joint marketing of “one region with many attractions” under the East African Community auspices, but this has not yet fully taken off.

The region is thought to have attracted about 3.5 million visitors in 2006 and easing the bureaucracy will undoubtedly help to push these figures in coming years towards the 5 million mark.

It is hoped that eventually Southern Sudan will join the efforts to open up and make the region yet more accessible and more attractive for visitors seeking this unique wildlife experience, meeting the colorful tribes of Eastern Africa and get acquainted with the cultural attractions East Africa has to offer.

Common visa: A priority for East African tourism executives
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