Covid-19: EAC tourism revenues fell by 92 pc

East African Community partner states have lost 92% of tourism sector revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making the disclosure, EAC Secretary General, the Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki said tourist arrivals in the region fell from 6.98 million arrivals before the pandemic to 2.25 million arrivals causing losses, adding that the tourism sector was the most affected by the pandemic.

Noting that the region was once again open for business, Dr Mathuki urged the governments of EAC partner states and other stakeholders to work together to market the region’s tourist attractions and products as part of efforts to ensure a rapid recovery of the sector.

“Despite the fact that the pandemic reversed the gains we had made in the tourism sector, we are quite confident that through collective and collaborative efforts, we should be able to bounce back to pre-pandemic performance levels and even do so. best within a span of less than five years, ”Dr. Mathuki said.

“As a region we have what it takes, including iconic and fascinating tourist attractions ranging from pristine white sand beaches to magnificent snow-capped mountains, rolling savannahs to dense tropical forests, a rich cultural heritage that stretches across the region and an unparalleled diversity of wildlife, ”added Dr. Mathuki.

Dr Mathuki said the region had learned a number of important lessons from the pandemic, especially with regard to hard-hit economic sectors such as tourism.

“A lesson that stands out and resonates with most destinations in the world is the need to build resilience in the tourism sector,” he said, adding that the Community would take a number of steps to improve the recovery in the sector.

“This EXPO is one of the first initiatives we have launched as part of the deployment of the implementation of the regional tourism recovery plan which was approved by the EAC tourism and wildlife management ministers on July 15, 2021 ”, declared the Secretary General.

Dr Mathuki said that the EAC is also planning to undertake a major regional and national tourism campaign in the region.

“This is based on the premise that our intra-regional tourism market is mature and provides the best support in the event of future shocks. As you all know, Africa’s middle class has grown rapidly and is largely made up of young people eager to travel and explore. East Africa should be their first destination. They should take advantage of the preferential rates applicable to EAC citizens, ”he said.

Dr Mathuki revealed that the EAC Council of Ministers previously decided that EAC citizens should be charged at local rates when entering public tourist sites such as national parks and reserves which are spread out in the region, adding that the decision has been implemented by all partner states and has been extended to hotels and other tourist accommodation establishments.

He urged EAC partner states to diversify their tourism products by developing other products such as conference tourism, cultural tourism, sport tourism, and commended the United Republic of Tanzania for launching a golf tourism campaign.

“We are also focusing on developing and promoting multi-destination tourism packages that would encourage visitors to travel to more than one EAC partner state in a single trip. This will go a long way in supporting the Branding EAC as a unique tourist destination initiative which is also in preparation, ”he said.

Dr. Mathuki said the region has started capacity building activities targeting different tourism service providers including hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, tour guides and even local communities.

“Capacity building will focus on critical aspects at this time, such as the implementation of harmonized tourism guidelines related to COVID-19. Shortly after the onset of COVID-19, we undertook to train frontline staff on COVID-19 security measures at all international airports in EAC partner states, ”he said.

Dr Mathuki said that the Tourism and Wildlife Management Sector Council has also approved regional guidelines for resuming services in the tourism and hospitality sector aimed at ensuring the safety of visitors when traveling. In the region.

The Secretary General was addressing guests, visitors and exhibitors when he presided over the official opening of the 1st EAC Regional Tourism EXPO at the TGT grounds in Arusha, Tanzania. The Expo will take place from October 9 to 11, 2021.

He revealed that the EAC has developed an EACPass that allows the travel industry to return to normal while ensuring the safety of people in the aftermath of a pandemic.

“The EACPass incorporates all COVID-19 test results and certificates from EAC partner states to ensure safe and smooth travel throughout the region. Work is underway to integrate the EACPass with other international surveillance systems such as EUPASS. We will demonstrate how the EACPass works at this EXPO. The EACPass is a further step towards the mobile laboratories that the EAC has set up at one-stop border posts (OSBP) such as Namanga to facilitate testing and rapid response in accordance with the free flow of goods and services in the region. region, ”said Dr. Mathuki. .

“Another important aspect that we will be working on immediately as a region is strengthening our digital tourism marketing capacity. In this area, the world has evolved rapidly and the travel and tourism industry is one of the areas that should be at the forefront. Our goal is to have all tourism operators, including SMEs, in the digital space to ensure that they are able to market their services, ”said the SG.

He said that in marketing digital tourism, EAC would work closely with regional private sector tourism organizations such as East Africa Tourism Platform to ensure this goal is achieved, ” he said, adding that the tourism offices of the partner states would jointly launch the development of the “EAC Regional Tourism Marketing & Business Deal Room” at the investment forum during the EXPO.

The Secretary General said that in promoting the EAC as a unique tourist destination, the need to maintain the integrity of the region in terms of environmental sustainability should not be overlooked.

“The EAC has strong policy instruments that guide us in collaborating on environmental management. Regarding wildlife conservation, we have implemented the Regional Strategy to Combat Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade, ”he said.

In his remarks, the Tanzanian Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Damas Ndumbaru, revealed that the exhibition had attracted 400 exhibitors with 15 African countries sending high-level representatives.

Ndumbaru further revealed that Tanzania will host the United Nations-organized Global Tourism Meeting of African Tourism Ministers in Arusha in January 2021.

Speaking at the event, South Sudan’s Minister of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Lt. Gen. Rizik Zacharia Hassan said the youngest country in the world is open for business with tourist attractions ranging from cultural tourism with unique geographic characteristics.

For his part, the Chief Administrative Secretary of Kenya, Mr. Joseph Boinnet, observed that the wildlife resources of the region were facing an increasing demand for agricultural land by the communities neighboring the wildlife sanctuaries.

The chief administrative secretary said that the EAC should therefore invest in areas that will ensure that wildlife resources are managed sustainably against competing factors such as climate change and competing land use patterns. .

Mr Boinnet stressed the importance of resilience in the tourism sector in order to keep the sector vibrant enough to withstand all kinds of shocks and challenges in a post-COVID-19 era.

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