Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda yesterday showcased the East African single tourist visa at an exhibition in Berlin, Germany, jointly marketing the region as a single tourist destination.
Tourism officials and diplomats from the three countries graced the exercise at the three countries common pavilion at this year’s Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB).
The joint pavilion was established by officials from the three countries to unveil the project to the world participants attending the one-week event.
The visa, launched by the respective Heads of State last month, came into effect early this year.
A holder of the USD 100 cross-border visa can visit any of the three partner states without extra charges.
Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza, the Rwanda Development Board chief executive officer, said the project will help boost tourism in the region.
“Since January 1, the number of travellers to the East Africa region has significantly increased,” she said.
“With this partnership, our unique selling point as a region is highlighted as we have a wide range of experiences to offer,” she added.
Rugwabiza described the initiative as a milestone in the region’s integration process.
Before the establishment of the single entry visa, countries charged various tariffs. For a tourist to go to Kenya or Uganda, they had to part with $50 while Rwanda charged $30.
Kenya’s Minister for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Phyllis Kandie noted that the project will allow the three countries to have a significant share of the 50 million tourists that visit the continent annually.
With $100 fee, tourists will now be able to enjoy varieties in the three partner states at a cheaper price instead of paying different charges as it was previously, Kandie said. Dr Maria Mutagamba, Uganda’s Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiques, said the initiative will make the region more competitive and reduce the cost of doing business in the Community.
“The launch of the East Africa single tourist visa at the Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya tripartite meeting symbolises East Africa’s commitment to the integration process and will help market East Africa as a single tourist destination,” she said.
The visa can be accessed in partner states as well as the embassies and High Commissions of the three member countries.
East African economies are relying much on tourism to finance their national budgets and other developmental activities.
Rwanda last year registered a four per cent increase in tourism revenue.
Statistics from Rwanda Development Board show that last year the sector earned $293.6 million (Rwf 196.7 billion) compared to $281.8m (about Rwf 188.8bn) generated in 2012.
The country’s major tourist attractions include Mountain gorillas, Akagera and Nyungwe national parks, museums, Lake Kivu, bird watching, culture, Congo Nile Trail, among others.