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East Africa looks for tourism boost

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-11-23 09:24
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Crew members prepare a hot air balloon in Maasai Mara's natural habitat, in Kenya, on Aug 9. GERALD ANDERSON/GETTY IMAGES

Government officials and industry figures in the seven-nation East African Community, or EAC, have called for an integrated marketing strategy to pitch the region as a single tourist destination, in an effort to give the industry a fillip following the pandemic.

Speakers at the third edition of the East African regional tourism expo in Nairobi said tourism in the region has great potential for growth, citing the abundance and diversity of scenic attractions.

More than 3,000 delegates, including ministers, industry leaders and investors, are attending the expo, running until Thursday and featuring exhibitions, seminars and business networking.

Peter Mathuki, secretary-general of the EAC, said tourist numbers have been rising in the bloc, with 7.2 million arrivals in 2019, and projections of double that by 2025.

"Following numerous efforts by the EAC partner states, and at the regional level, we are now seeing good signs of full tourism recovery," Mathuki said.

A regional circuit in which tourists can take in several destinations for the price of one will be of great benefit, said Alfred Mutua, Kenya's cabinet secretary of tourism and wildlife.

"As a region we need to invest additional resources toward regional tourism promotion. The expo provides a platform to foster debate on how best to showcase regional tourist attractions to local and overseas travelers."

Rebecca Kadaga, Uganda's first deputy prime minister, said a single tourism visa could cover all seven EAC member states.

"We need to do much more on domestic tourism. We should ensure it's affordable to the local people and the region, school children and youth."

Attractive destination

Frank Mugisha, chief executive of the East African Tourism Platform, said the region is well placed as a destination, offering attractions ranging from culture, flora and fauna, primates and beaches.

With changing dynamics in which travelers want to get more out of a single trip, it is important to present East Africa as a single destination, he said.

John Chirchir, acting chief executive officer of the Kenya Tourism Board, said tourism in East Africa has great prospects. Collaboration among EAC member states would allow tourists to travel more freely within the region, he said.

"We should bring on board players who support each other and who will be able to make our region more competitive and more aggressive in outlook and bring more arrivals."

At the expo's opening ceremony on Monday, the seven partner states adopted the EAC Tourism Destination Brand "Visit East Africa — Feel the vibe", which aims to present East Africa as a diverse, unique, beautiful and culturally rich destination.

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