Sunday, 17 June 2012

East African Tourism Platform Launched in Kigali

A platform through which EAC tourism products will be marketed in a single package, was launched in Kigali on Thursday, a move expected to bolster the performance of member states' tourism sectors. The East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP) will work closely with responsible ministries, the private sector to promote tourism through, marketing, skills development, research and information sharing. At the official launch, the Head of Tourism and Conservation at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said the body will mediate and reduce obstacles to tourism in the region as well as market unique tourism features.
"The vision of a vibrant and diverse single tourism destination is our driving force. Promoting intra-regional tourism will provide the much needed flow of tourists to East Africa," Tourism officials expect the new body to act as a platform to lobby EA governments to adopt a single regional visa for tourists, a request that has been pending for years. "Much has been said about regional integration and many things have been implemented apart from those that directly benefit the tourism sector. Therefore, as one voice in the tourism sector of the region, we will lobby our governments to implement the single visa for the region," Matu Waturi, the Coordinator of EATP, said in an interview.

"Once in place, the single regional visa will ease procedures for international tourists whereby, a tourist with such will be able to travel throughout East Africa without clearing with each and every country's immigration offices." Tour operators welcomed the platform as a likely "hub" for the dissemination of information about unique tourism features that EA has to offer. "East Africa is home to unique sites and wildlife which the world is not fully aware of. We hope through EATP, East Africa will be marketed not only to Europe or America, but to even middle income earners within the region because it is important that they know their region." "Most of the tourists come from Europe, Asia, America and the rest of Africa. Although they are not yet fully tapped into, the middle income earners in East Africa have the potential to contribute significantly to tourism by visiting tourism sites and game parks, thereby becoming greater ambassadors for the sector."
EATP will also engage training institutions and relevant government institutions to lobby for harmonized standards and codes for accommodation establishments and restaurants across the region. After launching in Tanzania and Rwanda, the platform is expected to be launched in other member states before the end of July.

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