Diversification of products a catalyst to regional tourism growth

ARUSHA: DIVERSIFICATION of tourism products beyond traditional tourism attractions and joint promotion of the region, is a catalyst to revamping the EAC region as a single tourism destination.

This was underscored by regional Ministers responsible for EAC Affairs and Tourism and Wildlife Management who converged for the opening of the 3rd EAC Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE’23) and the Magical Kenya Travel Expo in Nairobi, Kenya.

The three-day Expo that kicked off on Monday, provided an opportunity for EAC partner states to create awareness of tourism investment opportunities and address the challenges affecting the tourism and wildlife sectors in the region. The new EAC tourism brand, “Visit East Africa – Feel the Vibe,” was also launched at the opening of the expo and aims at promoting the region as a single investment hub.

Speaking while officially launching the forum, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in charge of Tourism and Wildlife, Dr Alfred Mutua, who was also the Chief Guest, said that the Expo has brought together over 100 hosted buyers and 300 exhibitors providing an opportunity for the region to jointly showcase its unique resources.

“This year’s theme, ‘Tourism for Green Growth,’ underscores our commitment to sustainable tourism. Kenya is set to introduce initiatives such as electric cars in parks and eco-rating schemes in our quest to propel tourism and our green growth agenda,” he said.

Dr Mutua added that the Kenyan government is focusing on infrastructure improvement, security, incentives and marketing campaigns to sustain tourism growth.

“As part of our five-year plan, we target 5.5 million international tourist arrivals and a 6.3 billion US dollars annual contribution by 2028,” said Dr Mutua.

Speaking at the launch, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Customs, Trade and Monetary Affairs, Ms Annette Ssemuwemba, said that regional tourism has been on an upward trajectory after recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

Ms Ssemuwemba, who represented the EAC Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki, said that the annual tourist arrivals are anticipated to increase to about 14.05 million by 2025 from the 7.2 million recorded in 2019.

“As we diversify our tourism markets, increasing the range of our tourism product offerings is inevitable. Whereas we are quite competitive in terms of beach and wildlife safari tourism, we are urging all EAC partner states to diversify their tourism products,” said the Deputy Secretary General.

Ms Ssemuwemba said that the EAC is collaborating with partner states to develop other products such as cultural tourism, sport tourism, agro-tourism and golf tourism among others.

“We are developing multi-destination thematic tourism packages that will encourage visitors to travel to more than one EAC partner states in a single trip,” she added.

The Annual Tourism Expo is among the key initiatives that EAC has embarked on as part of implementing the Regional Tourism Marketing Strategy 2021-2025.

The first Expo was successfully hosted by Tanzania in Arusha in October

2021, while the second Regional EXPO was hosted by Burundi in Bujumbura in September 2022.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development, Peninah Malonza, hailed EAC partner states for their participation in the forum.

“Through cooperation, we have developed uniform criteria for the classification of hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities within the region, in order to ensure increased quality standardisation,” she said.

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