EAC members mull joint plan to boost post-Corona tourism

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
MAIN: Tourists drive past a herd of elephants at the Masai Mara National Park in Narok. Photo/PD/Harrriet James

Harriet James @harriet86jim

Regional tourism is primed as the best strategy to boost tourism post-Covid-19 era.

Travel restrictions within countries will force travellers to desire to explore their regions and also cities as soon as it becomes safe to leave their houses. 

While there are many impediments to the unification of regional travels such as visa restrictions, expensive travel as well as poor infrastructure, much has been done through the East African Community (EAC) that offers hope to regional integration. 

Speaking at a webinar on The Impact of Covid-19 on Wildlife Conservation in the East African Community, EAC Deputy Secretary-General Productive and Social Sectors,  Christophe Bazivamo discussed the community’s plans in ensuring the region markets tourism as one. 

“There are plans to promote regional, domestic and tourism markets through aggressive campaigns and collaboration.

We already have treaties on tourism and wildlife conservation, which are binding and although it has been slow in implementation, we are moving forward,” he said. 

Formed in 1999, the East African Community is one of the eight communities in Africa that has been ranked as the best performing, according to the 2019 African Regional Integration Index.

The same trend was reported in 2018 reinforcing its position in the continent as the best. 

Common treaties

The process of integration is based on four pillars, which are mainly in customs union, common market, monetary union and lastly political federation.

Tourism falls under the unification of common markets and in this case with the implementation of free movement of people, capital, labour as well as services.

Another progress that facilitates free movement is the implementation of an East African tourism visa and other documents developed to advance this cause. 

When it comes to treaties, partner states have common tourism and wildlife management treaties under Article 114 and 116 of the Treaty for The Establishment of the East African Community.

For instance, partner states agreed to take concerted measures to foster cooperation in conjoint and efficient management of natural resources within the community for mutual benefit of the partner states.

Under article 116, partner states agree to undertake a collective and coordinated policy for conservation and sustainable utilisation of wildlife and other tourist sites in the community. 

Wildlife experience

They also agreed to harmonise conservation efforts on  wildlife and also coordinate efforts in controlling and monitoring encroachment and poaching activities.

“The sector is important particularly because it affects the income of our people. EAC tourism heavily relies on wildlife and brings about Sh639 billion per year.

The share of wildlife tourism in EAC is quite high with about 70 per cent of tourists who come to the region to have a wildlife experience,” he notes. 

The region holds a quarter of all protected areas in Africa. It is also home to the greatest concentration of mammals in both protected and non-protected areas and holds 28 per cent of known elephants. 

With the pandemic, the loss of jobs in tourism-related businesses has resulted in livelihood stresses, which has led in increased human-wildlife conflict as well as poaching of bushmeat, challenges that, are being experienced across the region. 

“Between January and May 2020, we discovered 2.8 tonnes of bushmeat, a 1.4 per cent increase from last year’s 1.8 tonnes in the region.

A significant amount of the meat found in last year’s raid in Burma market was from bushmeat,” says Director General Brigadier (Rtd.) John Waweru Kenya Wildlife Service.

Rwanda and Uganda reported to have witnessed increased levels of poaching due to the pandemic.

Though the culprits have been arrested, there are increased patrols in the parks and they are looking into diversification of conservation funds, which heavily relied on tourism. 

So far, the EAC head of states as well as relevant ministers in health, transport and tourism have had discussions and have come up with a unified guideline on how to handle the pandemic particularly in travel.

On March 24, 2020, the ministers issued a harmonised guideline on containment of Covid-19. They had a follow-up meeting that discussed the same in April.

On May 12, 2020, the heads of state issued a statement on the pandemic. “They have created one health platform approach comprising ministers of health, agriculture, trade and tourism.

In addition, in partnership with Amref, the EAC is coordinating training of staff at international airports in the region on how to manage the disease once air travel resumes,”he said.

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