ADDRESS BY HON. PETER KENNETH, ASSISTANT MINISTER OF STATE FOR PLANNING, NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT & VISION 2030 OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA ON MARKETING EAST AFRICA AS A SINGLE TOURISM DESTINATION, HOTEL INTERCONTINENTAL, TORONTO, CANADA, OCTOBER 3, 2012
My East African brothers and sisters
Friends of East Africa
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to have been invited to share this evening with you and explore the possibilities in the tourism sector in East Africa Community (EAC). As we all know, the Community is made up of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania and there are strong possibilities that the newly created South-Southern will be joining the family in the near future. The Community, with a combined population estimated at 135 million, has a GDP of US$ 74.5 billion. It is now one of the fastest growing regions in Africa, given newly discovered mineral resources and renewed political stability.
Tourism in East Africa has the potential to be a key contributor to this renewed economic transformation. This is a region that presents the tourist with the best year-round travel experience to beach, wildlife, ecological and business products within the industry, to mention just a few. There is more than enough potential for the investor in tourism.
With a total of 51 sprawling game parks and 38 game reserves spread across the five countries as well as hosting 9 out of 10 highest mountains in Africa, being home to the wildebeest migration and as a source of River Nile, the longest river in the world, makes the region any tourist’s dream. We should make it possible to combine tourist products, such as conferences and wildlife, and at the same time combine several countries as destinations. Some, but not all, of the scenic amazements that one could see in East Africa include:
· The diverse paradise landscapes of Burundi, the Heart of Africa, Blessed with rich fauna that includes different animals such as antelopes and buffaloes, crocodiles and hippopotamuses. Burundi is a delightful blooming country blessed with different yet intertwining types of vegetation cover.
· The magnificent Masai Mara of Kenya coupled with remarkable features such as archaeological sites, great landscapes, wildlife and cultures, as well as, sweeping savannah, tropical beaches and coral reefs. The coastline of Kenya is idly covered with soft white sands and gentle sea breezes that refresh, relax and welcome you. In the medieval streets and bustling markets of Lamu and Mombasa’s Old Town, life has continued unhurried and unchanged for more than 400 years.
· In Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills that sits at the hub of East Africa, and bridges the ecosystems of the Congo and the Great Rift Valley, you will find a home to the biological riches of both worlds. Here you are able to reach the depths of the cradle of the mountain gorillas and by staring into the eyes of these gentle giants you will discover a different form of “man”.
· Overlooking the plateau of northern Tanzania stands the snowy peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The varied and diverse ecosystem of this mountain creates a strikingly beautiful picture. The magnificent Serengeti National Park which is gifted with the 8th natural wonder of the world and of course, a visit to Ngorongoro Crater is definitely a world-class experience. Not forgetting the movie set sites of Zanzibar
· Uganda is Africa’s most complete bird-watching destination with more than 1,000 species recorded here. The source of the Nile starts here and flows all the way to Egypt. One can have the opportunity to experience the biodiversity of the various national parks and protected areas across the country and the endangered mountain gorilla, the bulkiest of all living primates, as well as the glacial peaks of Africa’s tallest mountain range.
This picture, Ladies and Gentlemen, combined with a diversity of traditional folklore, indicates the huge opportunities for tour operators to consider East African Community as a Single Tourist Destination when assisting tourists to plan their trip in the region.
Recognising that tourist attractions in their countries to a large extent complement each other, the EAC Partner States have agreed to work together to promote the industry and maximise gains. Consequently, tourism has been designated as one of the key areas of cooperation and the partner states have undertaken to develop a regional strategy for tourism promotion under the general theme of “maximised benefits from sustainable tourism and wildlife resources.” In addition, the EAC is working on a ‘single transit visa’ so that after entering any EAC state, the tourist can transit to the others without further immigration formalities.
Adoption of the common strategy has seen increased marketing of East Africa as a single tourist destination, through participation of Partner States as a bloc in international tourism fairs. This is an area we intend to intensify and strengthen. Regionally, uniform rates for East Africans have been adopted whereby the same rates apply to locals and East African visitors accessing accommodation facilities or visiting tourist attractions in any of the Partner States.
According to the World Tourism, Organisation, international tourism will be one of the major growth sectors in the next two decades. WTO projects that there will 1 billion tourists in 2012, which is a historical record. However, Africa receives only 5% of the global tourism volume. Next to Southern Africa, Eastern Africa is the largest destination of tourists, with 3.4 million arrivals in 2010 compared to over 8 million in South Africa alone. This should be a call to action for investors and the EAC member states. The East Africa single tourist visa to international visitors is one step in that direction. This type of visa will bring diversity which will in turn make East Africa one of the top tourist destinations and increase the arrival figures. Most important of all, is need to attract the best and biggest hotel brands to our region in addition to travel agencies and airlines.
To ensure that the single market operates at its best capability and generates the finest results, common codes of conduct for private and public tour and travel operators are being established. The process of standardising accommodation establishments and restaurants across the region is ongoing. This will indeed, enhance the competitiveness of the region in the international tourism arena.
The Community is in the process of formulating a harmonized policy for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wildlife and other tourist sites in the region. This policy will give attention to harmonizing policies for the conservation of wildlife within and outside protected areas, adopting common policies on wildlife management and development, coordinating efforts in controlling and monitoring encroachment and poaching activities, joint use of training and research facilities and lastly developing common management plans for trans-border protected areas.
The Community will also soon establish an agency known as the East African Tourism and Wildlife Co-ordination Agency (EATWCA) that will coordinate promotional tourism activities. The agency will have the authority to mobilize resources, brand the region as a matchless tourist destination and coordinate tourism bodies of the region.
As I conclude, the East African region is a must see as a single tourist destination. Indeed, today’s tourists are not only interested in the traditional beaches and safaris but are also looking for something memorable and would like to travel across borders to enrich their experiences.
I hope to meet you all soon in East Africa.