The first UNWTO East Africa Tourism Development Forum brought together Tourism Ministers and representatives from East Africa and the Vanilla Islands to explore areas of further regional cooperation (Mombasa, Kenya, 20-22 August 2015).
In an effort to unlock the tourism potential of East Africa, the first UNWTO East Africa Tourism Development Forum gathered regional tourism leaders and stakeholders to identify opportunities to maximize sustainable tourism development through regional collaboration.
Opening the Forum, the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, William Samoei Ruto, said “Tourism is a critical component of the East African economy and an important part of our common destiny. Our biggest challenge is to work together to improve every aspect of the experience we offer to our visitors, from their arrival at the airport, their movement within and across our countries, the accommodation and facilities that we offer, and the affordability across all income brackets. We are better, stronger and more attractive together than individually. This Forum presents an opportunity to compare notes on our experiences, programmes and aspirations in the development of tourism in our region”.
“UNWTO maintains great confidence in the East African Community´s ability to position itself as a leading tourism destination, by delivering one compelling, highly competitive offering. In this context, I wish to welcome the recent introduction of the East Africa Tourist Visa, which allows travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, boosting regional tourism and creating opportunities for tourists to explore the diversity of multiple destinations in the region,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
Phyllis Kandie, Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Kenya said: “By pulling and working together to address issues of competitiveness, positioning our destination globally and responding to environmental challenges, we can ensure that East African and indeed the whole African continent gets its fair share of tourist arrivals. Most importantly, we need to remember that we are not competitors. We are one people with a common destiny. Let us rise up to this challenge.”
Alongside Mrs. Kandie, the African Tourism Ministers of Seychelles, Sudan and Uganda, as well as senior officials from the Ministry of Tourism of Tanzania also participated in the Forum. They were joined by high-level representatives for the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), the East Africa Community (EAC), the International Air transport Association (IATA), and Kenya Airways. Forum participants stressed the need to put in place joint institutional frameworks and policy measures to spur further tourism growth throughout East Africa, including establishing a positive narrative of East-Africa as a destination, and developing regional policies in the areas of marketing and promotion, product development and travel facilitation (visa facilitation and connectivity).
In a Ministerial meeting held on the occasion of the Forum, a future common East African Tourism Agenda was outlined. The Agenda will include agreements on regional priorities and concrete actions for cooperation. The Ministers also agreed to work towards further mainstreaming tourism in the agenda of the African Union stressing that the sector can make a key contribution to the peace and development objectives of Africa.