Airlines Demand for Single EAC Visa
John Musinguzi (Busiweek)--Airlines in the region have expressed impatience over delays in instituting a single EAC visa. The delay is blamed for interfering with the flow of tourists. Majority of tourists in East Africa are from outside the region and so have to rely on air transport.
Sources in the airline industry said tourists that would like to visit more than one East African country find it cumbersome and expensive to get all the appropriate visas. ‘We are really crying for one visa. Ministers are only talking but not acting,’ an airline official said. ‘They should act on what they discuss. You the media should push them. Otherwise, they are not making it a priority,’ Pierre Declerk, the SN Brussels Airlines Uganda Country Manager said last week.
A single tourist entry visa for the five-member state East African Community is expected to be addressed at the next heads of state summit, according to current chairman, President Paul Kagame. Kenyan Minister for Tourism, Najib Balala recently echoed these concerns of tourists and airlines. Balala argued a single entry visa would make the region a competitive destination the way it has done to central American states.
The idea of a single entry visa was mooted last year and when it was announced, it became an instant big hit among international tour operators and a hot story in the media. On November 10, 2008 Uganda’s Trade minister Janat Mukwaya, Kenya’s Najib Balala, Shamsa Mangunga of Tanzania, and Rwanda’s Monique Nsanzabaganwa addressed a press conference on the fringes of the 2008 World Travel Market (WTM), to announce their decision to make the EAC a single visa destination.
A headline in The Telegraph of UK ran: ‘Tourists to roam free in East Africa’. It was followed by headlines like: ‘Simpler Safaris’ in The Times of South Africa and ‘East African nations to get single visa’ in Safarigorrillas.com
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