Kampala — The East African Community has agreed to start a single tourist visa for the region, the tourism minister, Serapio Rukundo, has said.

Rukundo said in a statement that the EAC members were discussing a protocol to create and market the region as a single tourist destination.

Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda make up the EAC.

“The private sector has responded positively to uni-visas, although we have not yet set the date to start issuing them,” he said.

Rukundo added that the five countries were in the final stages of negotiating for the Common Market Protocol. The protocol involves free movement of people, goods and services across the region.

He said the members had started to coordinate their policies in the tourism industry and were establishing a framework that would ensure equitable distribution of resources.

“We are in addition establishing a common code of conduct for private and public tour and travel operators, standardised hotel classification and professional standards of agents in the industry,” Rukundo said, adding that they had already agreed on the criteria to classify tourist facilities. He said a collective policy for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wildlife and other tourist sites in the region was also in pipeline.

“They include harmonising policies for the conservation of wildlife, within and outside protected areas, exchanging information and adopting common policies on wildlife management and development, coordinating efforts in controlling and monitoring encroachment and poaching activities.”

The policy encourages joint use of training and research facilities and developing common management plans for trans-border protected areas.

Rukundo said an agency to coordinate promotional tourism activities would soon be operational.

He said the East African Tourism and Wildlife Co-ordination Agency would have the power to mobilise resources and coordinate tourism bodies in the region and brand EAC as a powerful tourist destination.