East African lawmakers are not happy at the slow implementation of the Single Tourist Visa, saying it has made little progress in boosting the tourism industry in the region as envisioned.
Nusura Tiperu (Uganda) said the region has vast tourist attractions which have not been fully exploited under the Single Tourist Visa plan. “There needs to be more information and data available on tourism to ensure visitors benefit from the tourist facilities,” she said.
The East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) currently is in session here, wants the implementation of the EAC One Single Tourist Visa fast-tracked.
Adam Kimbisa (Tanzania) said there is a need to ensure inter-connectivity and infrastructure are in place to support systems of the Single Tourist Visa.
The visa was launched to entice more tourists into East Africa by allowing them to use one visa to tour three states, which they are party to it.
According to the provisions, ‘The holder of the East Africa Tourist Visa shall enter the country that issued the visa and moves within the two other countries without applying for another visa or paying for another visa fee.’
It is also cheaper at $100 paid once compared with previously when a visa costs an average $180 for the three countries namely Kenya ($50) ; Rwanda ($30) and Uganda ($100).
The idea of a single regional visa is to make it easier and more financially attractive for tourists to visit the whole region.
According to Carmen Nibigira, Regional Coordinator, EATP, the East Africa Tourist Visa as of now entitles the traveller to 90 days uninterrupted travel in and out of the three participating countries.
Originally launched in 2014 by the presidents of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, the take up has been on the slow, but is now being sped up across the region. The East Africa Tourism Visa is commonly available, although a few problems remain.
The EALA parliamentarians asked the EAC Council of Ministers to complete the study on the implementation of the EAC Single Tourist Visa.
They made the observations when passing a report on the oversight on hotel classification and preparedness for the visa. The report was presented by the Chair of Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, Christophe Bazivamo (Rwanda).
The legislators said the hotel classification in East Africa is hampered by poor planning. They want the EAC member states to establish a fund to support the initiative and enhance capacity building.
The lawmakers also want the regional council of ministers to speed up the ratification of the Protocol on Tourism and Wildlife Management, and provision of additional resources for the Tourism and Wildlife Management Unit.
In June this year, the East African Tourism Platform (EATP) met in Arusha to push for the full implementation of a common tourist visa for the region. EATP, which promotes East Africa as a single destination founded on growth, dynamism and investment, wants the sector to adopt the visa and market the region as one destination.