East Africa tourism took a big hit due to Covid-19

BUSINESS |

Mombasa's PrideInn Paradise Beach Resort and Spar Hotel Managing Director Hasnain Noorani flanked by Staff celebrates at the hotel's Shanzu poolside after the hotel was awarded a five (5) star rating status by the Tourism Regulatory Authority. [Maarufu Mohamed,Standard]

East African Community (EAC) states lost 92 per cent revenue in the tourism sector due to Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the regional bloc, tourist arrivals to the region dropped from 6.98 million before the pandemic to 2.25 million.

EAC secretary Peter Mathuki said the tourism sector was the worst hit by the pandemic. 

Noting that the region was now opening up for business, Dr Mathuki urged the East African partner states and other stakeholders to work together to market the region’s tourist attractions and products to ensure a 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 said the region has what it takes in terms of iconic and fascinating tourist attractions, ranging from pristine white beaches to snowcapped mountains, savannahs to dense rainforests, as well as a rich cultural heritage and unmatched diversity in wildlife species.

“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. 

Further, he said the EAC was also planning to undertake a major regional and domestic tourism campaign locally.  

“As you are aware, the middle class in Africa has been growing rapidly and it largely comprises of young people who are eager to travel and explore. East Africa 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 citizens from the bloc should be charged local rates while entering public tourist sites across the region, adding that the decision had been implemented by all Partner States and been extended to hotels and other tourist accommodation establishments. 

Mathuki urged member states to diversify their tourism products by developing other products such as conference tourism, cultural tourism and sports tourism. He hailed Tanzania for launching a Golf Tourism campaign. “The capacity building will focus on critical aspects at this time such as implementing harmonised Covid-19 related tourism guidelines. Soon after the onset of the pandemic, we undertook the training of frontline staff on safety measures at all international airports in the EAC partner states,” he said.  

Visitors and exhibitors 

Mathuki was addressing guests and exhibitors when he presided over the official opening of the first EAC regional tourism EXPO at the TGT grounds in Arusha, Tanzania. The Expo runs from October 9 to 11. 

“EAC has robust policy instruments that guide us in collaboration in environmental management. When it comes to wildlife conservation, we have been implementing the Regional Strategy to Combat Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade,” he said. 

Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Damas Ndumbaru said the expo had attracted 400 exhibitors with 15 African countries sending high-level representatives. 

He said Tanzania would be hosting the UN World Tourism-organised meeting of African Ministers of Tourism in Arusha in January next year.  

Kenya’s Chief Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinnet said EAC should invest in areas that would ensure wildlife resources were managed sustainably, in a bid to end human-wildlife conflict. 

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