East African Community (EAC) partner states are urged to work together through various initiatives such as joint tourism promotion, standardisation of tourism services and management of tourism resources so as to realise the full potential of the sector in the region. While officially opening the second regional tourism expo in Bujumbura, Burundi, on September 24, Burundi’s Vice President, Prosper Bazombanza, said that despite the fact that EAC partner states are benefitting significantly from tourism, the potential for the sector across the region remains largely untapped. Bazombanza noted that Burundi is collaborating with other partner states on the development of minimum standards for tourism service providers as well as review of the classification criteria for tourism accommodation establishments and restaurants. “Application of common standards in the region will enable us to enhance our competitiveness as a single tourism destination. I urge the EAC Secretariat and the relevant policy organs to fast-track the development of necessary regional instruments that would enable us to forge ahead together as a region,” he said. “It is our anticipation that we will be adequately connected to all the EAC partner states and other neighbouring countries in the near future to enable efficient flow of travellers for tourism purposes from within the region.” Like most EAC countries, Burundi has prioritized the tourism sector as an economic activity. We have created enabling policy, legal and institutional frameworks for development of the sector,” Bazombanza said, adding that Burundi has all it takes for growth in the sector. According to Jean Baptiste Havugimana, the Director of the Productive Sectors at the EAC Secretariat, the Council of Ministers directed that the EAC citizens should be charged at local rates while entering public tourist sites such as national parks and reserves spread across the region. “This decision has been implemented by all partner states and, indeed, extended to hotels and other tourist accommodation establishments,” added Havugimana. Havugimana said that as the region diversifies its tourism markets, increasing the range of its tourism product offerings is inevitable. “Whereas we are quite competitive in terms of beach and wildlife safari tourism, we are urging EAC partner states to diversify their tourism products. At the regional level, we will work in conjunction with partner states to this end. This will focus on developing other products such as cultural tourism, sport tourism, agro-tourism and golf tourism.” The EAC is now emphasizing the development and promotion of multi-destination tourism packages that encourage visitors to travel to more than one partner state in a single trip. “This will go a long way in supporting the initiative on Branding EAC as a single tourism destination that is also in the pipeline,” Havugimana said. The Secretariat has undertaken capacity building activities targeting various tourism service providers including tour operators, travel agencies, tour guides and even local communities. “The capacity building focuses on critical aspects such as digital tourism marketing, product diversification and sustainability. We were able to reach over 3,000 tourism service providers in the capacity building activity that was undertaken between November 2021 and February 2022,” he said.