Tanzania and Burundi have decided to go it alone vis a vis tourism marketing their countries. Some say this is another nail in the coffin of East African cooperation.
Earlier accords signed at the beginning of the decade had seen a regional approach to market East Africa as one destination with many attractions which eventually saw Trademark East Africa support the set-up of the East African Tourism Platform to provide regional public and private sector stakeholders with a mechanism to sit down, develop and agenda and action plan and then roll it out.
Soon afterward however it became obvious that in particular Tanzania, covertly and overtly, hit the brakes again, at times bordering on outright obstruction according to feedback given by attendees of meetings.
When in 2014 the common East African Tourism Visa was launched was it again Tanzania, dragging Burundi into the abyss with them, who obstructed the implementation, leaving it to the ‘Coalition of the Willing‘ under the Northern Corridor Integration projects to launch a tripartite Visa for tourists and making in particular travel for citizens and duly registered expatriates and residents easier.
This led to travel from Uganda to Kenya and Rwanda increasing dramatically and put Uganda into global 4th place as ‘supplier‘ of visitors to Kenya last year.
The East African Tourism Platform, now defunct as Trademark pulled the funding, while fulfilling the purpose for Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, however failed to fully bring the other two on board and the paymasters, probably tired of the constant bickering and lack of substantive progress whenever a unanimous vote was needed, did in the end walk away from the project, leaving East Africa the poorer for it.
It is understood from usually well-informed sources that Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda opposed the change of the 2011 agreement during the meeting in Arusha last week but could ultimately do little to keep the two unwilling countries in the fold.
Burundi’s tourism industry, in particular, is arguably the hardest hit in this development, as tourism, since the chaotic political developments in recent years, has dropped almost bottomless and tourists, in part for lack of enough air connections and in part for the ridiculously high hurdles for Visa, have simple bypassed Burundi and favoured the other countries.
With a three versus two situation on the ministerial committee opposed to changing the agreement has Tanzania made it clear that they do not feel bound by it and will go their own way, driving a further wedge into East African cooperation and a nail in the coffin of the concept to promote East Africa as a single destination with many attractions.
The website below now only features Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya, three countries which still adhere to the principle of joint exhibition stand areas at major tourism trade shows where tour operators and travel agents find it easier to do business with the three countries in adjoining stands.
By Alain St.Ange, Former Seychelles Tourism Minister