THE East African Community (EAC) has expressed commitment to step up promotion of tourism, owing to the role it plays in the socio-economic development of the region.
It is noted that the sector contributes an average of 10 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 17 per cent foreign exchange earnings, and about seven per cent to employment.
This was reveled recently in Kampala, Uganda, by the Director of Productive Sectors at the EAC, Mr Jean Baptiste Havugimana, who represented the EAC Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki, at the seventh edition of Pearl of Africa Tourism EXPO at Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort.
The event that was staged from April 26th – 29th, this year, brought together the EAC Secretariat and all partner states’ tourism boards. The four-day event was officially opened by the Ugandan Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Colonel (Rtd) Tom Butime.
The Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo is a tourism exposition organised annually by the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB). The expo brought together tourism stakeholders and other service providers along the tourism value chain presenting them with a unique opportunity to meet new clients, network and discuss business deals with potential regional and international buyers.
The seventh edition of the Expo attracted over 150 exhibitors and more than 100 hosted buyers and media from different tourist source markets, including the US, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Poland, South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria among others.
Participation by the EAC Secretariat and partner states in National Tourism EXPOs organised by any partner state is in line with the decision of the Fifth Meeting of Sectoral Council on Tourism and Wildlife Management that “encouraged Partner States to participate in tourism promotional events organised by other Partner States.”
In his opening remarks, the Ugandan Minister for Tourism, Butime, expressed his appreciation on behalf the government and people of Uganda to all the exhibitors as well as hosted buyers and media for attending the event, adding that Uganda was endowed with unique and diverse attractions that appeal to the international, regional and domestic travellers.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board, Dr Lily Ajarova, said that Uganda and other EAC partner states are keen on promotion of sustainable and responsible tourism.
On his side, Mr Havugimana thanked the government of Uganda for inviting the EAC Secretariat and all the partner states to participate at the EXPO in the spirit of the EAC integration.
Mr Havugimana disclosed that the EAC Secretariat and the National Tourism Boards have been supported to participate at the Expo through facilitation of partner states’ delegates and procurement of exhibition booths. The German International Cooperation Agency, GIZ, also supported the EXPO through a Gold Sponsorship package.
He said that the EAC Treaty attaches a lot of importance to the tourism sector owing to the role it plays in the socio-economic development of the region, adding that the sector contributes an average of 10 per to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 17 per cent foreign exchange earnings, and about 7 per cent to employment.
Mr Havugimana informed the participants that the EAC was currently implementing the EAC Tourism Marketing Strategy 2021-2025 with the support of GIZ through various interventions such as: joint tourism promotion through exhibitions; regional tourism campaign dubbed Tembea Nyumbani; development of minimum standards for tourism service providers such as tour operators, travel agents and tour guides; and common classification criteria for hotels.
“Currently, the process of developing a Regional Tourism Destination Brand for EAC as a single tourism destination has commenced and is expected to be concluded by the end of this year. Implementation of these interventions will see the region surpass the total of 7.2 million international tourist arrivals recorded in 2019 before COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr. Havugimana.
The GIZ Country Director for Uganda, Mr. James Macbeth Forbes, reaffirmed the commitment of the GIZ to continue supporting the EAC integration initiatives including joint tourism promotion under GIZ’s Support to East African Market-Driven People-Centred Integration Programme.
Mr. Forbes added that removal of barriers to trade and investments in the region is a key component in the integration process.
Also present at the opening ceremony were the Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. Balinduka Mugarra, the Uganda Tourism Board Chairperson, Mr Daudi Migereko, as well as representatives of the Diplomatic Community.