Nairobi, Kenya - Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have officially presented their joint single tourist visa to the world at the ongoing International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin, Germany, in an effort to attract a portion of tourists globally, officials said on Thursday.
Heads of delegations from the three East Africa Community (EAC) states, forming the tripartite agreement, praised the visa move launched three weeks ago by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda as a bold move that would boost regional integration and ease the movement of tourists across the region.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for East Africa Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Phyllis Kandie, said whereas in the past tourists visiting the three countries had to seek separate visas in a cumbersome and costly process, all they needed now was to acquire one visa at US$100 and visit the three states as many times as they wished for three months.
“This will harmonize immigration procedures, help curb cross-border insecurity, enable tourists to have a one-stop border check point and generally open the region for more visitors,” a statement from the Commerce and Tourism department quoted her saying.
In a speech read by Kenya’s Ambassador to Germany, Ken Osinde, she said by introducing a single visa, the three countries were signaling their intention to jointly promote the landscapes, wildlife and experiences they were endowed with.
“Through this initiative, which we hope will eventually involve all the five partner states of the EAC, we will be highlighting the unique attractions to be found in each country,' she added.
Under the arrangement, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda will jointly market their destination as a single entity through joint stands in international travel and trade fairs.
“We ask the world to take notice of this key joint initiative that will see the East African region transform into a destination of choice for many travelers whether for pleasure or business,” Kandie said.
Uganda’s Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Agnes Akiror Egunyu, said the single visa represented the most cost effective offer to tourists in terms of time, money and the variety of attractions to see.
She said tourists would be lodging their applications at embassies, consulates or diplomatic representation and once issued, the holder of an EAC tourist visa would enter the country that issued it and subsequently move within the other two countries without applying or paying for visa.
Rwanda’s Chargé d'affaires in Berlin, Felix Sangano, said Rwanda was experiencing a tourism boom fueled mainly by regional visitors and hoped that with the entry of the single visa, more international visitors would throng the country.
Muriithi Ndegwa, the Managing Director of the Kenya Tourism Board, said the region would now be expected to benefit from an increase in tourists arrivals.
Earlier in the day, Kenya Wildlife Service Acting Director-General, Mr William Kiprono, paid a courtesy call on NABU, the German conservation organisation that started a fund to support survivors of Kenyan rangers killed in the course of active duty.
The delegation was hosted by the NABU Vice President and CEO Mr Thomas Tennhardt who said: 'We cannot protect wildlife without rangers yet most support doesn't focus on their welfare and that of their defendants. We wanted to highlight the plight of rangers and help tell the stories behind their experiences in the field protecting wildlife.'
Kiprono said the initiative was the first of its kind to support front-line staff like rangers and would greatly motivate those who risked their lives protecting wildlife.
He thanked NABU for the initiative noting that 10,000 Euros had been disbursed to KWS and would soon be distributed to families to support education of departed rangers.