(eTN) – The meeting of the East African Community’s (EAC) sectoral council on tourism and wildlife in Mombasa ended with calls to fast-track the long overdue introduction of a common tourist visa for the entire EAC, to stimulate travel across national borders to neighboring countries by tourists already in the region, without having to pay multiple visa fees every time. At a cost of IS$50 a person, a family of 4 traveling from Kenya to Uganda to Rwanda to Tanzania can easily spend several hundred dollars in such fees, a factor often seen as a deterrent to cross-border travel.
Expatriates in the region have also sharply criticized that although they are duly registered in their country of residence, they are also required to obtain a tourist visa when visiting a neighboring country, and many have as a result opted to go for their holidays to South Africa or as far as Dubai, where most expatriate nationals do not need a visa, and are instead giving free entry.
Kenya’s Tourism Minister Najib Balala hit the nail on the head when he said “Fear of the unknown and unfounded suspicions harbored by some partner states is holding back efforts to take the community to the next level of integration” before echoing growing calls for the completion of ongoing “preparations and consultations” and finally launch the common tourist visa the industry has been demanding for a decade now.
It could not be established if this issue will be put on the agenda of the next head of state meeting in November or if it will wait for the next sectoral council meeting due in April next year.