A single EAC tourist visa has been established for Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda to allow visitors to travel to all these countries on one visa.
The move is aimed at boosting the tourism in the region and eases the financial strain faced by tourists who have to pay multiple visas when visiting each country.
The EAC tourist visa allows tourist to visit Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda and for 90 days at a cost of only Sh9, 000 ($100). Tanzania is the newest country to join and it is expected Burundi will also join as part of EAC integration.
It is hoped the single EAC tourist visa will easily facilitate movement for tourists across the region which in turn will attract high yield tourists and long stay tourists.
Tour firms have also said they will seek to further promote the visa by proposing a review of the EAC tourism visa to allow 30 days of free movement for expatriates within the region.
Single Tourist Visa for was launched on February, 2014 and despite campaigns to have tourism boards in the EAC partner states speed up the promotion of the region as a single tourist destination, only about 1,560 single tourist visas have been sold since then.
One of the challenges has been lack of awareness among most tour companies who have little or no information about products that are offered in other countries. This makes it hard for them to market the single Visa to their customers. Other notable contributor is the insecurity situation in the region during the last three years, most notably in Kenya which has experienced a wave of terrorist attacks. Some countries have faced challenges by lack of communication infrastructure and internet technology infrastructure to implement the process.
But according to CEO of Kenya Tourism Federation, Agatha Juma, now efforts are being focused on creating awareness about by the travel document with the aim to speed up the visa sales. There has also been a proposal to create boards in Tourism related parastatal that will offer guidance and oversight especially in times of crisis.
Kenya Tourism Federation, for instance, has signed a Sh9 million grant with Trademark East Africa (TMEA) to help with marketing and creating awareness about the visa and the use of Identity Cards in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
If there is political goodwill and vigorous awareness and marketing, it is possible for region to have the single regional EAC tourist visa just like the way it has managed to develop a single customs union so far. As the regional common market protocol is continuously being implemented, the tourism sector can be tapped to help integrate and contribute to EAC’s economy.