Tourism is a vital sector not only for Tanzania, but also the entire East African region. For a long time, the industry has contributed to the development of the region, being a key foreign exchange earner.
Besides bringing in the foreign cash, which these economies badly need, the industry also creates employment.
However, its impact would be felt even more if these countries pooled their resources and jointly marketed their attractions. So far, each country has been going it alone, and yet they have tourism products that if sold together would be a marvelous attraction to the foreign visitors.
There are a lot of advantages the region can realise if it comes up with a coordinated policy in some or all the aspects connected with the industry. One of these is having a single visa for all the five countries – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
As the region forges closer ties, having a common market, joint tourism promotion is the way to go. And a single visa will go a long way in easing travel arrangements for those intending to visit one or all of the member countries of the East African Community (EAC).
We are, therefore, happy to learn that consultations are going on to have a single tourist visa for all EAC member countries. We are told this will be the first step in efforts to harmonise tourist policies and laws.
Efforts to boost the tourism in the region should be encouraged. A single visa will save potential tourists time and the agony of having to hop from one embassy to another to apply for different visas to come to East Africa.
They should be able to obtain this one document and visit and sample the diverse tourism attractions in the five countries.
Such an arrangement will definitely lead to an increase in the number of tourists to the region. This effort should be speeded up so that the benefits can be realised as soon as possible.