- The collaboration is expected to enable joint research, policy advocacy, capacity building at EAC and international levels.
- Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism sector had become one of the most lucrative, but the pandemic brought it to its knees.
The East Africa Business Council(EABC) has signed an MOU with the East Africa Tourism Platform(EATP) to promote tourism in the region, after it suffered major setbacks due to Covid – 19.
The collaboration is expected to enable joint research, policy advocacy, capacity building at EAC and international levels that will spur the recovery of tourism.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism sector had become one of the most lucrative, but the pandemic brought it to its knees.
As uptake of vaccines increases and recovery efforts start, many nations are cooperating to revive tourism.
“Efforts to deal with challenges associated with Covid-19 on domestic and regional tourism should focus on the long term, beyond the pandemic, in order to enable the industry to revive and thrive sustainably to withstand future shocks,” said EABC CEO, JohnBosco Kalisa.
Kalisa said that through the MoU they wanted to address liberalization of air transport in the region and issues of visas.
“We want people to be able to move freely in this region, if possible by the use of an ID,” said Kalisa.
Before Covid-19, tourism contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of EAC Partner States by an average of 9.5 per cent in 2019.
It contributed an average of 17.2 per cent to EAC total exports and 7.1 per cent to employment.
EABC research shows that EAC Partner States lost international tourism receipts to the tune of $4.8 billion in the year 2020.
The number of tourists dropped from 7million to 3million.
In terms of impact on employment, it is estimated that 2 million tourism jobs in the region were lost.
The impact was reflected in massive reductions in international tourist arrivals, receipts, jobs, visitors to parks and hotel occupancy rates.
“The coronavirus has heavily hit the tourism sector, this is an opportune time to collaborate to help sustain our region's many businesses," said EATP Chairman Frederick Odek.
Odek said the partnership will be a key driver of tourism business recovery in the short to medium term.
"The tourism economy is at a crossroads. The coronavirus has heavily hit it, but this pandemic also brought us opportunities to explore new markets, open up new destinations, encourage innovation as well as think new and sustainable tourism development models," said EATP Board Member, Richard Rugimbana.
Mike Macharia CEO Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers(KAHC) said vaccination was the safest bet to full recovery.
Macharia lauded the government's efforts in ensuring the whole Kenyan population is vaccinated.
'TEMBEA NYUMBANI' CAMPAIGN
Meanwhile, the East Africa Tourism Platform has launched a three-month campaign dubbed "Tembea Nyumbani", in the East African Community (EAC) Partner States to promote domestic and regional tourism business in the region.
Dubbed 'Tembea Nyumbani', Swahili for Visit Home, the campaign is a call to the citizens of the countries in the East African Community including Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda to visit each other's countries.
In the spirit of East African unity, the tourism body is drawing wisdom from the popular adage that as an East African, any East African country you travel to is a home away from home.
Undertaken in partnership with stakeholders, the campaign will promote different tourist packages within the region.
The campaign aims to spur tourism business within the region by showcasing the many hidden gems as well as affordable and exciting holiday packages that can be explored in what the world has come to know as Africa's magical destinations.
It is expected that an increase in interest to travel within the region will revive the tourism industry, which is a lifeline for millions of people.
The EAC has a lot to offer in terms of products and attractions, with its enormous untapped tourism and hospitality potential.
More than 830 regional tour operators and travel agents will now be able to market and sell their packages through Tembea Nyumbani.
"A return to pre-Covid-19 international tourist arrival levels may seem far off as travel restrictions still hold. However, this should encourage us to work together in addressing the impact of the pandemic and in joint tourism recovery efforts," said Anataria Karimba, Director of Business Competitiveness at TradeMark East Africa (TMEA)
"Tourism is one of the world's major economic sectors, and the current crisis is an opportunity for us to rethink how we do things. One of the vital lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic is that domestic and regional tourism markets are very important.”