In a brainstorming session involving the five members States which make up the East Africa Tourism Platform, practical and proactive steps have been identified and earmarked as necessary footholds to where actions are necessary in order to eliminate the hindrances to seamless and competitive activities in marketing the East Africa as a destination with practical possibility. The meeting took place at Elevate Suites in Kigali on the 3rd and 4th of February 2016.
Invited to the meeting were CEOs and Executive Directors of Private Sector Tourism
Associations in the five East African countries; Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and
Uganda. Tourism Boards in the East African Community member states were also invited
as EATP fosters private/public sector collaboration in matters of tourism in the region.
These stakeholders were brought as policy makers and influencers, they were gathered
in the same room to discuss challenges and opportunities of developing tourism in EAC
and promoting it as a single destination.
For two days, EATP challenged the participants to look beyond their differences and
challenges at their national levels and rally their strengths behind finding solutions to
common problems. Carmen Nibigira, EATP Regional Coordinator, emphasized that
solutions will have to come from all of the five partner states, with a unified vision and
collaboration towards developing regional tourism. Ms. Nibigira hoped the forum gave
each tourism stakeholder an opportunity to borrow a leaf from each other in their efforts
to develop tourism in East Africa.
Few priorities emerged from the two days Forum that are common to the five countries
as: Policy Regulations, Product Development and Marketing, Skills Development and
EATP called on all participants to see inter and intra-regional tourism as something to be
embraced for the good of EAC. EATP believes that some of the challenges faced by the
tourism sector in the region, such as lack of open skies policies, competitiveness, product
development, diversity and infrastructures (hard and soft), can be lobbied together and
each participant called to be the agent of change. “EATP is represented by each single
to collaborate, build bridges and strengthen the vision of EATP of a vibrant and diverse
single tourism destination providing exceptional experiences and products” stated Manzi
Kayihura, chairman of EATP, while addressing the participants. The fact that tourism
board of Rwanda, Uganda and Rwanda were presented in the room showed that the
solutions to the challenges facing the private sector can’t be solved without the
involvement of the public sector. Mr Stephen Asiimwe, Head of Uganda Tourism Board,
Mrs Belise Kariza, Chief Tourism officer of Rwanda and Mr Jonathan Mbiyu, Regional
Marketing Director at Kenya Tourism Board urged all tourism stakeholders to consolidate
their efforts in forging synergies in driving regional tourism through guided policies and
strategies. The key message was to shift the lenses to domestic and regional tourism in
driving their marketing and products development plans. Tanzania and Burundi, even
though they haven’t joined the single tourist visa, were invited to attend all regional
meetings organized whether through Northern Corridor as observers as well as East Africa
Business Council and East Africa Community.
The private sector is half of the solution in the equation; the other half is government led
initiatives. Creating an enabling environment for tourism business is the mandate of the
government through its agencies such as the tourism boards and hence, this forum was
a much needed platform to understand their position and the private sector to voice
their concerns. EATP supported by its partners in the private and public sector is therefore
seeking strategic engagement with direct and concrete actions from both parties in
driving inter and intra- regional tourism.