Mombasa -The UN tourism agency on Friday called on African countries to ease visa regulations to help promote the tourism sector.
Taleb Rifai, UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General, told the East African Tourism Development Forum in Mombasa that visa facilitation was the key to unblocking tourism potential in the region.
“Increased connectivity and visa facilitation are keys to unlock greater opportunity for each and every destination.
The UNWTO chief praised the single travel visa among the East African countries, saying it supports regional tourism.
“Visa facilitation is key to unlock greater opportunities for each and every destination.
“Introduction of East Africa Visa which allows travel between Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda will boost regional travel and create opportunities for tourists to explore the diversity of East Africa destination”, he said.
Rifai noted that foreign tour operators had complained of cumbersome immigration procedures at border entry points for those who wished to cover various circuits in East Africa.
He said the requirement for tourists to disembark from Kenya tour vehicles to board the Tanzanian vehicles while crossing into Tanzania had been a major point of complain by tour operators.
Kenyan Deputy President, William Ruto, called on East African countries to work towards the realisation of the Single Tourist Visa to be able to ease and develop regional tourism.
He said Kenyan government has gone a step further and set up an online portal through which one can apply for a visa and receive it within 48-72 hours of application.
Ruto said Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have implemented single tourist visa to open doors for potential tourist from all over the world.
“Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda in 2014 introduced a single tourist visa for visitors in the region.
“They also agreed that their citizens should use individual country’s national ID cards to cross each other’s borders’’, he said.
The moves have been lauded by partner states as they are expected to cut down on bureaucracy and ease movement of goods and people.
The conference, organised by the UNWTO, brought together participants from 10 countries.