Addressing guests at the event, Mrs . Maria Mutagamba, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Republic of Uganda and Chairperson of the EAC Sectoral Council on Tourism and Wildlife Management, emphasized that the East African region was a secure and safe destination of wonders and opportunities. She highlighted that this year at WTM, the EAC is focusing on three main aspects: regional achievements to date and where the region is going; safety and security; and lastly, a new innovative way to promote the region as a single tourist destination.
The EAC Partner States have embarked on the process of a Common Market Protocol facilitating free movement of people, skills, goods and services; a great milestone that will see the enhancement of trade and movement of goods as well as services. In addition, an achievement favored in the hospitality and travel industry, is the removal of non-tariff barriers and the enhancement of a free trade area as well as the anticipated introduction of a single currency under an EAC Monetary Union.
"The tourism sector has also started harmonizing hospitality services policies and laws in the region in preparation for full cooperation and to sustainably utilize our resources as a region," she noted, adding that harmonization of hospitality services includes a focus on quality and not quantity. The Minister urged that sustaining the natural resources the region has been endowed with requires undertaking measures that will ensure the conservation and sustainable utilization of wildlife and other tourist sites in the region.
With regard to safety and security in the region and taking note of the recent terrorist attacks in parts of the region, the Ministers responsible for Tourism from the EAC Partner States pronounced the urgent need for their respective Partner States to fully address the negative image portrayed and subsequent negative travel advisories issued.
The Ministers pledged to employ a positive outlook on the regional approach taken to combat security challenges about the East African tourism destinations, encouraging Tourism Trade Associations to ensure continuous dialogue with all Commonwealth member countries and to advise Commonwealth member countries to notify the EAC Secretariat before publishing any travel warnings.
Promotion of the EAC as a Single Tourist Destination is an ongoing task and innovative strategies are sought to achieve this objective. The Ministers this year, introduced a new product that will be a powerful platform to collate and communicate credible regional information to the Tourism/travel sector; "The Traveler's Roundabout East Africa".
The publication has been circulated to the EAC zone, Embassies, High Commissions, other Missions Abroad, key stakeholders and will be distributed to regional airlines, especially those that endeavor to promote the EAC as a Single Tourist Destination. It will also be available on the EAC website, providing pertinent and strategic information on the various investment opportunities in the region.
In a bid to promote the region as a Single Tourist Destination, the EAC WTM Joint Event was preceded by a meeting of the High Commissions of Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania and the Embassy of Burundi in London on 1 November; an exclusive interview of the Ministers responsible for Tourism in the EAC Partner States on BBC-London was featured on Focus on Africa on 5 November at 17.30 GMT (20.30 East African Time); as well as interviews conducted for BBC Swahili and English services respectively.