This has been argued to be against the spirit of the East African Community (EAC) as well as the promotion of the EAC single tourist visa.
Speaking to CNBC Africa, Waturi Matu, coordinator at the East African tourism platform said that the current crisis is unfortunate.
“The basis for this [crisis] is a bilateral agreement that was signed in 1985 between the two countries. At a meeting in February last year, both Tanzanian and Kenyan officials including the private sector tried to negotiate new terms but were not able to agree on it,” Matu explained.
The two governments agreed to collaborate diligently on a wide range of issues by reverting to the 1985 Bilateral Agreement on tourism operations allowing tourism vans to drop tourists at convenient points in their respective countries.
Henceforth, the bilateral agreement protects tour operators from regional competition. Under the agreement revived in March last year, tour vehicles from Kenya are only allowed to drop tourists at designated towns in its neighbouring country and the same applies for Tanzania. In the past, the two countries pointed fingers at each other over policies that aim to protect their tour operators from regional competition.
However, this move by Kenya is seen as a tit-for-tat move by East Africa’s biggest economy on Tanzania’s decision to close the northern Bologonja border, the border between Tanzania’s flagship Serengeti National Park which has remained closed since the late 1970s.
Last year, the Kenyan government vowed to start implementing the agreement.
In Tanzania’s Tourism Act 2008, foreign registered tour operator vehicles are not allowed entry into tourist sites in the country.
It is estimated that about 400,000 tourists visiting Tanzania annually pass through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), East Africa’s main transit point for travellers. This in turn earns the Kenyan economy a whopping 1.9 billion US dollars.
Tanzania’s government has already formed a task force to probe the factors behind Kenya’s move and an emergency meeting is set to take place this week.
EAC has been working on fast tracking the harmonisation process of the EAC tourism laws and review the bilateral agreement. The partner states further agreed to scrap all fees levied on tour vans, tour guides and couriers.