KIGALI - The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) convening in Kigali, yesterday, urged EAC member states to work together in promoting the region as a single tourist destination.
This followed the tabling of a report by the committee on agriculture, tourism and natural resources, compiled after the study tour of all member states.
Moving the motion, the Committee Chairperson, Safina Kwekwe, said despite commendable improvement among partner states, the tourism sector was still facing a number of challenges.
Among the challenges encountered include; poor physical infrastructure, high cost of flights, inadequate qualified human resource to serve the industry and expensive accommodation facilities.
Others are; poor communication strategy between the bloc’s Secretariat and partner states as well as the citizens and competing campaigns among sister states, which may cause resentments and mistrust.
Kwekwe told the house that all these challenges could not be addressed unless there was a deliberate joint campaign to promote regional tourism as a single destination.
She said some countries had taken steps in addressing some of these challenges, citing Rwanda Tourism University College and the Utalii College in Kenya, who charge preferential tuition fees for EAC students as an example.
However, the majority of the legislators expressed concern over the continued existence of point of entry barriers despite the Common Market Protocol provisions.
“Marketing tourism is a joint venture and if well conducted it can rebrand our region’s image which is shaped with defaming past. Partner states should prioritize it and invest a lot to develop the sector,” MP Dan Kidega said.
Eriya Kategaya, Uganda’s Minister for EAC, called for internal tourism promotion and a common economic regime that promotes regional development.
“We have a regional tourism protocol which has been in existence for years now; some countries have not yet signed it or ratified it. This is a major problem, there is need for expedited consideration and implementation of the protocols in place,” Kategaya said.
Meanwhile, Kwekwe said there was a plan for partner states to enact various laws that will operationalize the Common Market Protocol provisions which was highly criticized by MPs.