While the East African Community (EAC) prepares a strategy to sell its five partner states as a single tourism destination, Kenya has called for a memorandum of understanding with Tanzania on the development and promotion of the industry.
According to press reports here Wednesday, Kenya’s Tourism Minister Najib Balala has said that if the two countries took such a position, it would help remove ” serious” bureaucratic barriers and other obstacles to cross-border cooperation in the sector that is vital to economic growth and regional integration.
Tourism is a leading earner of foreign exchange in both Kenya and Tanzania, whose economies are the biggest among EAC member countries. Others in the bloc are Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
In 2008, Tanzania raked in US$1.3 billion from 642,000 foreign holidaymakers to account for 17.2 percent of the GDP, while – according to the Kenya Tourism Boar d (KTB) – Kenya earned around US$811 million from fewer than 200,000 tourist arri v als despite the disruptive effects of the election-related violence that year.
Buoyed by signs of global economic recovery, after experiencing a sharp decline of foreign tourists last year, authorities in the two countries have mounted agg r essive marketing campaigns to attract around 3 million tourists yearly between them by 2012.
Incentives offered on both sides include reduction on visa and discounts on safa ri and accommodation packages.
The move by the EAC to market the region as a single tourist destination is cons idered vital following the inking by the Community leaders in November 2009 of the regional common market protocol that is due to come into effect in July this year.
Meanwhile, Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary in the Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry, Ladislaus Komba, has said that his side has yet to discuss the merits o f Kenya’s proposal for a memorandum of understanding on tourism development.
“Tanzania is committed to marketing the region as a single tourism destination. We will take part in a technical officers’ meeting next week and a council of ministers’ meeting scheduled for 18 January 2010,” said Komba.