EAC Sectoral Council on Tourism adopts Regional COVID-19 Recovery Plan to revive the sector
The East African Community (EAC) Sectoral Council on Tourism and Wildlife Management has approved the EAC Regional COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Plan that seeks to revive the sector that has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministers who met virtually under the chairmanship of Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala, noted that some EAC Partner States had already instituted measures such as the formulation of stimulus packages aimed at re-igniting the sector and supporting tourism investments in the region including the Small and Micro Enterprises
The Ministers agreed that there was a need for a collective and coordinated approach towards tourism recovery that entails interventions that are aimed at reinforcing the measures being developed and implemented at national levels.
The Ministers further considered and approved the draft regional guidelines for resumption of services in the tourism sector and hospitality establishments.
While approving the guidelines, the Ministers agreed that there was a need for EAC harmonized guidelines for resumption of the tourism and hospitality services in the region.
The Ministers observed that the regional guidelines would help in ensuring coherence in resumption of tourism services and help in rebuilding trust and confidence with international tourists visiting the region.
The Ministers also considered and approved the draft Regional Tourism Marketing Strategy, which seeks to position the EAC region as the best and most affordable regional tourism destination in Africa.
Among the strategic directions and the corresponding strategic actions in the EAC Tourism Marketing Strategy are to: develop regionally and internationally competitive multi-destination tourism products; position and market EAC as a leading regional tourism destination in Africa; brand East Africa as a leading tourism destination; enhance the marketing policy and institutional framework, and, enhance EAC Tourism Marketing and Promotion Financing.
The Ministers also agreed to establish the annual EAC Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE) with the aim of improving the visibility of the region and marketing it as a single tourist destination.
The Sectoral Council decided that the United Republic of Tanzania hosts the 1st EARTE in October, 2021.
Balala, underscored the importance of the Partner States working together especially in addressing the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism sector and in joint tourism recovery efforts.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught all of some really important lessons. For instance, domestic and regional tourism markets are really key and they can help in making the tourism sector resilient in case of future disasters and pandemics. The pandemic has revealed that we can use technology to connect with each other and have meetings such as this. It is therefore really important that we invest heavily in infrastructure and connectivity,” said Balala.
On his part, EAC Secretary General Dr. Peter Mathuki said that the tourism sector was one of the most important areas of cooperation for EAC owing to its contribution to the economies of the Partner States in terms of GDP (about 10%), export earnings (17%) and jobs (about 7%).
“Its multiplier effect and linkages with other sectors that are instrumental in our integration such as agriculture, transport and manufacturing are quite immense. However, the travel and tourism sector, globally, was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic more than any other economic sector,” said Mathuki.
“Based on statistics reported by the Partner States, as a region, we lost close to 70% of international tourist arrivals in 2020 coupled with massive losses in tourism earnings and tourism related jobs. The signs this year are still bleak given the recurrent waves of the pandemic that result in imposition of unpredictable measures and restrictions by Governments around the world from time to time,” said the Secretary General.
Mathuki said that whereas Partner States had initiated tourism recovery efforts, it would really be helpful for the region to come together to implement joint actions aimed at the recovery of the sector as well as laying a strong foundation for its future development.
Also speaking during the opening session of the meeting, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Productive and Social Sectors, Christophe Bazivamo, said that strengthening of the intra-regional tourism was now imperative given the fact that this segment was resilient and likely to recover faster than the overseas markets.
“Bolstering of both domestic and regional tourism can help keep the tourism industry afloat therefore sustaining the much-needed jobs and income along the entire tourism value chain,” said Hon. Bazivamo.
Among the Ministers who attended the meeting were Rizik Zakaria, Minister for Wildlife Conservation and Tourism (South Sudan), Tom R. Butime, Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (Uganda) and Hon. Dr. Damas Ndumbaro, Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism (Tanzania).
Others were Amb. Jérémie Banigwaninzigo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade, Transport, Industry and Tourism (Burundi) and Zephanie Niyonkuru, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Development Board (Rwanda).