TANZANIA YET TO JOIN THE COMMON TOURIST VISA
(Posted 22nd June 2016)
Last Friday did yet another meeting of the East Africa Tourism Platform take place, this time in Arusha, as a follow up of the Kigali meeting in early February.
EATP promotes East Africa as a single destination founded on growth, dynamism and investment. Regional integration calls for expansion of horizons be it size, scale, competitiveness or partnerships; resulting an environment for tourism to thrive.
By understanding that common challenges need to be solved by agreeable strategic solutions and in line with its mission and vision, EATP hosted this latest Forum geared to offer a platform for open discussions on the vision of East Africa as a single tourism destination and the feasibility and viability thereof.
Participants in Arusha were once again drawn from key companies and Private Sector Tourism Associations in the five East African Community member states of Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as well as Tourism Boards of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The Arusha Forum was a follow up one where this time the stakeholders invited were the key business and tourism stakeholders, in other words those individuals considered the industry’s movers and shakers. As key players and influencers, the participants were gathered in the same room to discuss challenges and opportunities to development of tourism in EAC and promoting the region as a single destination. The stakeholders invited from the five countries of EAC must have a say in shaping the future of tourism and are already working in EAC and doing cross-border business.
The current business climate is calling tourism stakeholders to rally their synergies and efforts to lobby government and policy makers to take tourism more serious in their decisions. From this forum, it was clear that all stakeholders are calling EA policy makers to:
· Harmonizing Tourism policies across the region to reflect the vision of East Africa as one Destination
· Requesting EAC government to treat tourism as an export service when it comes to VAT and taxation
· Calling for full implementation of open sky policy and to liberalize air connectivity for inter and intra-regional tourism, value for money for tourism and trade)
· Institutional framework to shift towards a One Voice, One language and One strategy for East Africa as One Destination.
Mr. Bonifence Byamukama, Chairman of EATP reminded all invited stakeholders to this forum, that it is time they make tourism an economic case, at regional and national level, each of them should play his role to push tourism on the agenda when it comes to the interest on the tourism industry. According to him, time has come where tourism due to its socio-economic contribution is given the prominent role it deserves when it comes to budget allocation and conducive policies to support the industry.
Among other issues discussed were
· Product Development and marketing
· Skills/HR Development and research
· Infrastructure development
· Policy, regulations and institutional framework.
Reports filtering back however also talked of Tanzania’s ongoing reluctance to join the common East African Tourist Visa and the overwhelming feeling in the room was that the introduction of an ill considered VAT on tourism services in Tanzania’s budget reading will compound an already challenging situation for Tanzania tourism and depress arrivals into the country, both directly as well as from across the region.