EAC lost 92pc of tourism revenue to Covid-19
Tourist arrivals to the East African regional block fell from 6.98 million arrivals before the Covid-19 pandemic to 2.25 million arrivals during the pandemic.
East African Community (EAC) secretary general Dr Peter Mathuki put the lost revenue at 92 per cent.
“The tourism sector was the worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said during the opening of a recent virtual regional tourism expo in Arusha, Tanzania.
Mathuki noted that the region was now open again for business, urging EAC Partner States’ governments and other stakeholders to work together to market the region’s tourist attractions and products as part of the efforts to ensure speedy recovery for the sector.
“Despite the fact that the pandemic has reversed the gains that we had made in the tourism sector, we are quite confident that through collective and collaborative efforts, we should be able to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels of performance and even do better within a span of less than five years,” he said.
He added, “As a region, we have what it takes including iconic and fascinating tourist attractions, ranging from pristine white beaches to beautiful snow-capped mountains, rolling savannahs to dense rainforests, rich cultural heritage that span the entire region and unmatched diversity in wildlife species.”
Mathuki said that the region had drawn a number of important lessons from the pandemic, especially in relation to the economic sectors that were hard hit such as tourism.
“One lesson that stands out and resonates with most destinations around the world is the need to entrench resilience in the tourism sector,” he said.
He added that the EAC was also planning to undertake a major regional and domestic tourism campaign.
“This is based on the premise that our intra-regional tourism market is ripe and provides the best backstopping in case of future shocks.
As you are all aware, the middle class in Africa has been growing rapidly and it largely comprises of young people who are eager to travel and explore.
EA should be their first destination. They should take advantage of the preferential rates applicable to EAC citizens,” he said.
He disclosed that the EAC Council of Ministers had previously made a decision that the EAC citizens should be charged local rates while entering public tourist sites such as national parks and reserves across the region, adding that the decision has been implemented by all partner states and has been extended to hotels and other tourist accommodation establishments.
Mathuki further urged EAC partner states to diversify their tourism products by developing other products such as conference tourism, cultural tourism, and sports tourism.