The East African Community (EAC) group of countries has reinforced its status as one of the continent’s most integrated regional economic and tourism blocs through the launch of a new EAC destination brand.
Unveiled at the colourful opening ceremony of the combined East African Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE) and Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) in Nairobi on Monday, November 20, the ‘Visit East Africa – Feel the Vibe’ brand adds to the region’s pioneering efforts to jointly promote tourism.
In his keynote address at the event, Kenya’s Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Alfred Mutua, said integrated tourism marketing strategies were key to enhancing competitiveness and attracting more tourists and earnings. He pointed out that, despite a strong recovery of tourism post-COVID, the region was underperforming in comparison to the world’s leading destinations.
“When you look at the population of Kenya, for instance, we have an average of about 53 million and in 2022 we hosted 1.48 million tourists. Spain, which has a smaller population than Kenya, hosted 70 million tourists in 2022. We should work towards improving these numbers to ensure that our citizens fully benefit from the tourism sector. As a region we need to invest additional resources towards regional tourism promotion,” said Mutua.
He said his ministry would be co-ordinating the collaboration between the seven EAC states to chart ways to harness strengths and develop tourism circuits that would ease travel and promote interactions across the diverse cultures that defined East Africa.
Under its Regional Tourism Marketing Strategy 2021-2025, the EAC is aiming to increase foreign visitor arrivals to 14 million by the end of 2024.
The expansion of the single tourist visa – which currently allows for travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda – has been identified as a catalytic initiative in achieving the joint tourism aims of the region. Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan have also expressed willingness to join the initiative.
In another significant boost for intra-Africa travel, which the EAC and other regions have identified as pivotal for overall tourism growth, Kenya’s President William Ruto and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame recently announced that visas for all other African nationals would be scrapped by the end of this year.
Peninah Malonza, Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Integration, said the region’s rich diversity of attractions and cultures could significantly contribute to partner states' economies if well harnessed.
“Our national boundaries were created by former colonial powers and with the regional integration we are pursuing, we will knock down these artificial boundaries and increase integration between the citizens of East Africa, while creating a single destination,” Malonza added.
The combined EARTE and MKTE trade shows brought together tourism stakeholders, partners and media from across the EAC region and in key source markets in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
The event attracted 110 hosted buyers from 33 countries, along with 309 exhibitors.