Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda envoys jointly woo US tourists

Jean KamauEnvoys representing Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda on Monday launched a Single Tourist Visa in the US capital in a joint effort to woo prospective tourists from the North American nation.

Kenya’s Charge de Affairs, Jean Njeri Kamau, joined her two colleagues – Rwanda’s Mathilde Mukantabana and Uganda’s Oliver Wonekha – at a symbolic ceremony held at the Rwandese Embassy on Connecticut Avenue in Washington DC.

Speaking during the event attended by stakeholders from the tourism and aviation industries, Ms Kamau said American tourists wishing to visit the three countries on a single trip will now pay $100 for a 90-day multiple-entry visa.

“We would like potential tourists to know that they can now enter any of the three countries as many times as they wish within the three month period after paying a subsidized fee of $100, down from the $150 they would have paid had they sought individual country visas” she said.

Under the joint venture, the $100 fee will be charged by the issuing country which will take $40 while the other two will take $30 each.

Monday’s event follows a similar one held in Berlin Germany during the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) three weeks ago.

Government officials from the three countries have on several occasions said they would embark on a global sensitisation tour to make the world aware of relevance of the tripartite venture.

The events are symbolic replicas of the official launch by presidents of the three countries in Kampala, Uganda on February 20 at a meeting dubbed the Fourth Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit. During the ceremony, the heads of state gave out three dummy Tourist Visas to tourists from Canada, UK and Spain.

“By adopting the single visa, we believe East Africa will be able to compete with other top tourist destinations around the world,” said Ms Waithira Njuguna, the Public Affairs and Communications officer at the Kenyan Embassy in a phone interview with the Nation.

And in a joint communiqué Monday, the three Ambassadors called on all stakeholders present to “help market the visa which will result in immense business opportunities and increased tourism in the three countries.”

Tanzania, which is a member of the East African Community, has not joined the three countries in the venture citing security concerns. Burundi, which is the other member, has not given its reasons for keeping off.

Documents seen by the Daily Nation indicate that during the 2012/2013 fiscal year, Uganda raised over $1.1 billion in tourism revenue while Rwanda, which is still developing its tourism sector, earned $300,000  over the same period.

Kenya had generated the most income from tourism in 2012/13, accumulating $3 billion due to its large hotel industry and wildlife.

However, the numbers have dwindled considerably following the infamous Westgate terror attack which claimed over 60 people, many of them tourists.

The US has traditionally been a key target by Tourist Boards of the three countries Perhaps because of its sheer numbers of prospective visitors. However, whenever the American government has deemed it necessary, it has advised its citizens against visiting nations with a high potential terrorist-related activity.

Last Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta was quoted by Reuters as saying that Kenya’s  tourism sector is “on its knees” following attacks by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants, Al Shabaab. The story was quickly picked up by Yahoo News and has since been trending internationally.
Acting Kenya’s ambassador to the US, Jean Njeri  Kamau, during a past  interview in her Washington DC office.  Three East African countries launched a joint tourist visa in the US capital Monday. PHOTO|BMJ MURIITHI

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