East Africa: Tourism in East Africa – Unpicked Ripe Fruit
East Africa has the most memorable and famous hotspots in the world
COVID-19 has limited almost all tourism industries in the region
Earlier this year, tourism data showed performance was down 87%
If there is one thing East Africa is widely known for, it is its exotic natural landscape that stretches from rivers to lakes and across the East African Rift Valley. There is no doubt that tourism is one of the major foreign exchange earners and contributors to the economy of Tanzania – indeed East Africa.
Tourism is also one of the biggest employers in East Africa, holding nearly 7% of employment in the region according to information from the East African Community made up of Tanzania, Kenya , Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
Arguably, East Africa has some of the most iconic and famous attractions in the world. From the dense forests of Volcanoes National Park to the magical and exceptional work of nature in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the region is blessed with scenic and exotic wonders of nature – wildlife as well as waterfalls, lakes and mountains.
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All of these regions accumulate billions of shillings in tourism revenue which is fed back into the respective economies. Undoubtedly, the tourism industry has taken a hit due to the coronavirus pandemic in the region. As data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization highlighted earlier this year, tourist arrivals have fallen by 87% – an indication of how the virus has held hostage one of the most vital to the region’s economy. With these challenges, the industry has understood the underlying potential for its maximum growth and is heading in the right direction to combine efforts to strengthen the industry.
For example, according to the publication of the International Growth Center (IGC) 2017, there are many more things to improve in the Rwandan and Ugandan tourism industries, in the categories of actors, consumers, distribution intermediaries and of service providers – as well as in three separate areas. value chains, leisure and business.
It is undoubtedly the direct service providers who offer the greatest employment opportunity in each chain, as in Tanzania the sector provides over 600,000 direct and indirect jobs, but the IGC asserts that “these are the distribution – global tour operators, travel management companies (TMCs), destination management companies (DMCs), convention bureaus, professional convention organizers (PCOs), etc., who mostly control the potential for the sector’s development, by facilitating links with end markets.
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The EAC regards the tourism sector as a crucial operation for the economy, saying that it has contributed an average of 17% to export earnings and that its contribution to GDP is significant, at around 10%. East Africa has the capacity to remain the fastest growing hotspot for tourism in Africa, especially with the EAC spirit of unity propagated by member states, it is up to each country to collectively levitate its tourism potential.
East Africa’s heavy efforts towards tourism
In Tanzania, several efforts have been put in place to attract more visitors to the country’s dynamic attractions. This includes the development of a more attractive and modernized brand image, “Unforgettable Tanzania”, improved means of travel – which has resulted in the establishment of different travel routes by the national air carrier, Air Tanzania, to India, China, Nigeria and the Comoros.
Additionally, Tanzania is forging partnerships with the United Arab Emirates through the Emirates flight flag, which is widely known for its excellent air transport service. Additionally, thanks to sports tourism, Tanzania hosts the highest obstacle course in the world atop Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.
Another major player in the tourism sector in East Africa, Rwanda, a future ICT hub of East Africa, has focused its efforts on conference tourism through events “meetings, incentives , conferences and exhibitions (MICE)”.
According to the IGC, the government of Rwanda has been emphasizing conference tourism, using a contract with the World Bank for “the business tourism enterprise as a consultant to provide strategic oversight and help create the Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB).The RCB has doubled the number of association meetings in Rwanda in two years and is trying to increase delegate spending by $245 per day to approach the world average of between 600 and 650 $.
Rwanda has gone further and promoted its tourist attractions on the world stage, through sport via its slogan “Visit Rwanda” on English Premium League football clubs.
The core objectives of the EAC compel countries to make collective efforts to promote their industry and share benefits as they arise. So far, the EAC Treaty (under Article 115) has shown that Partner States can undertake and develop collective and coordinated approaches to the promotion and marketing of quality tourism in and within the community (EAC).
Therefore, the whole concept of policy coordination in the tourism industry to establish a framework for cooperation is vital, as it will promote the equitable way of sharing benefits.
Since Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda share a certain part of tourist attractions, especially Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria (Uganda), there is a need to develop a “common code of conduct for tour operators and private and public tour operators, standardize hotel classifications and harmonize professional standards for agents,” according to the EAC.
Despite challenges faced by the region’s tourism industry, such as poaching and loss of wildlife habitat, fierce competition from relatively cheaper attractions, negative travel reviews from notable sources, and inadequate and inefficient infrastructure, there is hope for the sector.
Strengthening the confidence of tourists is essential, particularly in taking health protocol measures and the safety of tourists; investing in the value chain to generate valuable results, financing the development of accommodations to make them more sustainable and environmentally friendly and digitizing certain processes.
While the whole world understands the meaning of cooperation and partnership, even the Sustainable Development Goals have clearly stipulated the vitality of partnerships, the East African community has the potential to reap billions from tourism if they use the strategy of tourism marketing of the region.