The East African Tourist Platform gathered in Kigali to work on creating a single East African tourist bloc for the region, further punctuating its commitment to a border-less Africa.
With a total contribution of $12 billion to GDP in 2012, the collaboration makes sense for East Africa.
“It’s about bringing all the East African states together and making them work together in terms of bringing more tourists into the destination – how do we grow the pie for the whole destination,” said Steven Asimwe, Executive Director for the Uganda Tourism Board.
With tourism already a big deal in Kenya, East Africans are hoping to leverage off its tourism strength.
“It’s much easier to join efforts, whether it’s budget, whether it’s ideas – the benefit for Rwanda is that if a tourist comes to Kenya, they would have the potential of coming to Rwanda and Uganda,” said Belise Kariza, Chief Tourism Officer on the Rwanda Development Board.
The region is now putting efforts into filling the data for the East African Tourism portal so that it can show what it is doing said Asimwe.
“We are not competing with our counterparts, we are complimenting each other, it’s much easier to sell Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya (and other countries that are going to join soon hopefully) as a single destination – it’s much easier to join efforts,” suggested Kariza.
The next step is more “aggressively” pushing it Asimwe said because it takes 45 minutes to an hour to travel within the East African region closer than most countries have to travel just to get to each other.
“What is so difficult? America has 52 states, why don’t we knock out some of these visas because at the end of the day, these people spend money in our countries,” said Jonathan Koinange, Regional Marketing Manager of the Kenya Tourism Board.