right Dr.Amany Asfour Charperson of CBC,middle Ms Florizele Liser ,President and CEO of Corporate Council on Africa,a US business association focusing on connecting USA and AFrican business interests,and on the leFt Ms Sandra Uwera CBC,CEO.Photo Pierre Afadhali

COMESA launches tourism guide to market the region as single destination

By Jean-Pierre Afadhali*

right Dr.Amany Asfour Charperson of CBC,middle Ms Florizele Liser ,President and CEO of Corporate Council on Africa,a US business association focusing on connecting USA and AFrican business interests,and on the leFt Ms Sandra Uwera CBC,CEO.Photo Pierre Afadhali
right Dr.Amany Asfour Charperson of CBC,middle Ms Florizele Liser ,President and CEO of Corporate Council on Africa,a US business association focusing on connecting USA and AFrican business interests,and on the leFt Ms Sandra Uwera CBC,CEO.Photo Pierre Afadhali

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has unveiled a tourism and wildlife heritage guide to market the region’s tourism sector, in one of largest regional economic integration on the continent to the world as a single destination.

The Tourism and wildlife Heritage Handbook  launched  by COMESA Business  Council (CBC), a business member organization and private sector  institution of the economic block at the ongoing Annual World Tourism Conference in Kigali, Rwanda  will be used by hospitality players to sell  19 -country region as a single tourism destination to the global market.

The guide was unveiled as business leaders and policymakers from Africa gather to discuss ways to unlock the continent’s tourism potential, amid increasing travel and visa access hurdles that are hindering the growth of tourism on the continent.

“This is in the spirit of promoting cross- border tourism,” said Ms. Sandra Uwera, CEO of CBC at the guide launch’s functions.

The guide is expected to help COMESA member countries tap into its tourism resources, attract investors in hospitality sector, and sell the block as a one destination.

“This is about wildlife that we are trying to conserve” said Dr. Amany Asfour, CBC Chairperson, adding “tourism is our roadmap to growth and prosperity,”

She further noted the guide would bring about socio-economic transformation. “It’s not the book we are launching today; it is the whole tourism sector,”

COMESA hopes to create sustainable tourism marketing strategy, incorporate sustainable tourism elements and promote the region as single destination, develop a database, COMESA online portal and participate in trade fairs as a region to boost the region marketing.

The book contains facts for every member state on population, languages, religion, currency and tourist arrivals; it also highlights key wildlife and heritage attractions.

Mr. Frank Mustaff ,  the director  of Horwath HTL Interconsult Ltd. , an international tourism and hospitality consulting firm, told Panafricanvisions.com ,the vision of creating and promoting a vibrant and diverse joint tourism destination is” the driving force” behind promoting and marketing a country as part of a regional bloc.

“If a country decides to market itself-single handled it restricts itself to tap into the benefits of regional markets, movement of human capital, access to finance,” he explained in an interview

COMESA officials said the tourism handbook will be a guide to all tour operators in the region, domestic and international tourists.

Dr. Amany   believes the new guide will fast track economic integration in tourism sector.

According to estimates COMESA market has over 490 million people, and the GDP of $ 657.4 billion, with the area of 12 million square kilometers, a tourism potential with countless attractions that could increase the region’s tourism receipts.

Experts say tourism operators’ benefits from joint marketing include sharing information, networking opportunities access to bigger and diverse markets regionally and internationally.

Meanwhile the regional economic block is pushing for one single tourist visa that would allow tourists to visit the whole region without visa access challenges that has been cited as a key hindrance to the growing intra-Africa.

Kenya and Rwanda have recently made more open their borders, the move that is expected to boost tourism in two East African countries who are also members of COMESA.

Early January Rwanda started implementing its new visa regime that allows all foreigners to get visa on arrival.

According to the country’s new visa regime COMESA member states will get 90 day visa upon arrival.

Rwanda’s immigration officials said the decision was the implementation of COMESA protocol on free movement of persons, labor, services and right of establishment of residence.

Before the establishment of new visa regime, COMESA members were getting 30 days on arrival like other African passport holders.

The country’s open visa applies also to other countries differently, but they all get visa upon arrival.

Mr. Mustaff further said visa restrictions are among the key factors hindering tourism flow from one country to another.

“Many countries with easy visa applications are among the top destinations in terms of tourism arrivals numbers and revenues,” explained the tourism consultant

Likewise Kenya announced late last year it has scrapped visa rules to all African countries.

Speaking at his swearing in ceremony Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said the directive was meant to enhance trade, security, and intercontinental travel.

According to COMESA’s tourism sustainable development study, 14 out of 19 member states have developed an interest in tourism and prioritized it as an “engine of growth and poverty reduction” strategy.

Kenya and Rwanda have recently made more open their borders, the move that is expected to boost tourism in two East African countries who are also members of COMESA.

Early January Rwanda started implementing its new visa regime that allows all foreigners to get visa on arrival.

According to the country’s new visa regime COMESA member states will get 90 day visa upon arrival.

Rwanda’s immigration officials said the decision was the implementation of COMESA protocol on free movement of persons, labor, services and right of establishment of residence.

Before the establishment of new visa regime, COMESA members were getting 30 days on arrival like other African passport holders.

The country’s open visa applies also to other countries differently, but they all get visa upon arrival.

Mr. Mustaff further said visa restrictions are among the key factors hindering tourism flow from one country to another.

“Many countries with easy visa applications are among the top destinations in terms of tourism arrivals numbers and revenues,” explained the tourism consultant

Likewise Kenya announced late last year it has scrapped visa rules to all African countries.

Speaking at his swearing in ceremony Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said the directive was meant to enhance trade, security, and intercontinental travel.

According to COMESA’s tourism sustainable development study, 14 out of 19 member states have developed an interest in tourism and prioritized it as an “engine of growth and poverty reduction” strategy.

* This is story has been updated .It was first published on

 

 

 

 

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