Tanzania continues to dilly-dally on the operationalisation of the East African single tourist visa, which would make the region a single tourist destination.
Dodoma is still reluctant to be part of the East African Community (EAC) Single Tourist Visa (STV) on grounds that the bloc is yet to address security and financial implications of the scheme.
Tanzanian officials raised the matter at the EAC Council meeting held in June this year. The major issues are security, revenue sharing, the efficiency of the single visa regime and visitor screening.
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Dodoma believes that there is no STV framework worthy of the EAC, and that a 2010 study on the readiness of the member states to implement STV has been overtaken by events and, therefore, a new study is needed to assess the current situation.
But Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, who are implementing the plan, have said they are satisfied with the initiative. And now, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have expressed willingness to join the STV initiative.
At a Tourism and Wildlife Management Sectoral Council meeting held on October 19, 2023 in Arusha and chaired by Burundi Minister for Environment Prosper Dodiko, the EAC resolved to seek consensus on STV before implementation next year.
“The EAC Treaty provides for cooperation in the sector whereby partner states undertake to develop a collective and coordinated approach in tourism promotion and management of wildlife resources. I urge you to have fruitful discussions on this matter,” Mr Dodiko said.
The current STV is issued to persons travelling to and within Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda for tourism. The arrangement, which Tanzania argues is a Northern Corridor affair, makes Kenya the first point of entry.
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Tanzania says it welcomes the STV, but that its concerns must be addressed first.
During the Arusha meeting Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation in Tanzania Stephen Byabato said that visa application should be managed by immigration departments as opposed to the tourism dockets.
He called for a fresh study on the region’s preparedness for a single visa, a move that Uganda opposed, arguing that it would take more time and budget to carry out and East African Cooperation in Tanzania said that visa application should be managed by immigration departments as opposed to the tourism dockets.
He called for a fresh study on the region’s preparedness for a single visa, a move that Uganda opposed, arguing that it would take more time and budget to carry out. According to a report from the meeting seen by The EastAfrican, Ugandan Minister for Tourism Tom Butima proposed a review of the old study.
“The study was well done, and there is therefore no need for another study. Instead, the STV should be escalated to the region whereby the principle of variable geometry can be applied,” he said.
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Rwanda asked that the matter be sent to the permanent secretaries for technical input.
The Sectoral Council agreed that the EAC Secretariat coordinate the updating of the study by June 2024 and develop a framework for implementation by December 31, 2024.
The idea to establish STV stems from the 11th Council of Ministers directive set in Arusha in November 2006.
The tourism sector is vital to the EAC economy, accounting for 17 percent of total export earnings, 10 percent of GDP, and seven percent of jobs in the region.
The sector is closely linked to transportation, food production, retail, and entertainment.
Its recovery has been on an upward trajectory since the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2022, the EAC recorded 5.8 million international tourist arrivals, which accounts for 13.5 percent of the total international tourist arrivals in Africa.
The EAC projects that by 2024, the region will receive about seven million tourists, compared with 2.25 million recorded in 2020.
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“There are strong signs of attaining full recovery of the sector in the region following the historical drop occasioned by Covid 19,” said Andrea Aguer Ariik Malueth, EAC deputy secretary-general in charge of infrastructure, productive, social and political sectors.
If the visa application process is simplified, the number of international tourists will increase in the region. That could make EAC more competitive as a tourist destination and drive economic growth.
The EAC offers several investment opportunities in tourism, such as creating resort cities, branding premium parks, constructing internationally branded hotels, developing high-quality Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences an++d exhibitions), and promoting health and sports tourism, which directed among others, the Heads of Tourist Boards and Directors of Tourism to meet and strategize the marketing of the EAC as Single Tourist Destination.
To implement this directive, the 1st Meeting of the Sectoral Council on Tourism and Wildlife Management (SCTWM) met on November 1, 2008, and made decisions as regards single visa in which among others directed the Secretariat to undertake a study to harmonize tourism policies and laws and recommend how a single tourism visa could be introduced.
So the extraordinary council of ministers on Tourism and Wildlife management held on July 15, 2021 directed the secretariat to convene a meeting of Immigration, security and tourism and wildlife management to consider and address the issue of STV.
Source: The East African