TOURISM IN EAST AFRICA: A TOOL FOR DE­VEL­OP­MENT?

The po­ten­tial of Africa’s tourism is untapped. While Africa ac­counts for 15% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, it re­ceives only about 3% of the world’s tourism. East Africa has great tourism at­trac­tions and des­ti­na­tions, but for some rea­sons, its tourism in­dustr

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Special Feature | Tourism In East Africa - Words: CHRIS­TINE SIA­MANTA KINORI

for in­stance, Kenya is known for its long list of tourism des­ti­na­tions .From the Maasai Mara where the ma­jes­tic wilde­beest mi­gra­tion starts to camp­ing with the Maasai who have re­mained in touch with their cul­ture. Hik­ing around Mt. Kenya or head­ing to the na­tional parks or the Swahili beaches and get to ex­pe­ri­ence the Swahili cul­ture at its best. Bu­rundi is known for its stun­ning beaches. Rwanda is known for its mem­o­rable, up-close ex­pe­ri­ence with moun­tain go­ril­las.

Tan­za­nia is not only a rich cul­ture des­ti­na­tion but it has great scener­ies.There is Mt Kil­i­man­jaro, which is Africa’s high­est point, to Serengeti where the wilde­beest ar­rive from Kenya, the Ngoron­goro crater for re­mark­able and can­did wildlife view­ing. After that you can head up to Zanz­ibar for a more ur­ban ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­plore the breath­tak­ing beaches and the old stone town, among other ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites. Fi­nally we have Uganda, tourists can visit Moun­tains of the Moon in Ruwen­zori Na­tional Park, they can ex­pe­ri­ence world-class white­wa­ter raft­ing in Jinja, which hap­pens to be the source of River Nile .Uganda is also known for its elu­sive moun­tain Go­ril­las, which can only be spot­ted at Bwindi Im­pen­e­tra­ble Na­tional Park.

With all these be­yond amaz­ing des­ti­na­tions, one can’t help but won­der why East Africa’s tourism sec­tor is yet to bask in its full po­ten­tial. The East African Gov­ern­ments views tourism de­vel­op­ment not only as an in­te­gral stake for na­tional de­vel­op­ment, but also as a means to ease poverty, gen­er­ate for­eign rev­enue and con­trib­ute to wildlife con­ser­va­tion. Re­cently, three of the East African coun­tries (Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) launched an on­line por­tal in a bid to mar­ket the re­gions as a sin­gle tourism des­ti­na­tion.

The on­line por­tal is a one-stop shop for in­for­ma­tion on tourism prod­ucts, des­ti­na­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences with the ob­jec­tive of aug­ment­ing ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion. Kenya Tourism Board Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Betty Radier said, ‘’ the re­gions were com­ing to­gether to make it eas­ier for the tourists who would love to visit the coun­tries.’’ She also added that thanks to the im­proved roads and air con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween the neigh­bour­ing na­tions, the tourist will now be able to eas­ily travel and ac­cess the dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions they wish to visit. This is a great move that is bound to in­crease tourism in the re­gion, es­pe­cially since it not only at­tracts a price­con­scious trav­eller, but also strength­ens the re­gion’s re­la­tion­ship. They also launched an East African tourist visa . Ac­cord­ing to the WEF 2017 Travel and Tourism Com­pet­i­tive­ness In­dex, it is revealed that Kenya’s travel and tourism

sec­tor is the most com­pet­i­tive among the four East African economies. The re­port also ranks Tan­za­nia in first place when it comes to earn­ings from tourism. Tan­za­nia made $2.2 bil­lion from the tourism sec­tor , while Uganda comes in sec­ond at $ 1.1 bil­lion, Kenya is in the third po­si­tion at $ 723 mil­lion, and Rwanda came in the fourth po­si­tion at $ 317 mil­lion. Tan­za­nian’s tourism sec­tor seems to be do­ing great thanks to a suc­cess­fully de­vel­oped pre­mium tourism model, which tar­gets high-spend­ing tourists. The coun­try en­joys an av­er­age of $ 2,020 per ar­rival, which is more than twice that of sec­ond-placed Uganda.

Ac­cord­ing to the same re­port, Kenya is the most depen­dent on em­ploy­ment gen­er­ated by or re­lated to the tourism in­dus­try. The tourism in­dus­try ac­counted for more than half a mil­lion jobs in Kenya, which is 3.5% of the na­tion’s to­tal em­ploy­ment. Uganda is sec­ond in ab­so­lute terms at ap­prox­i­mately 470,000 em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. That is about 3.1 %of its to­tal work force. Para­dox­i­cally, Tan­za­nia comes in third with just over 380,000 jobs; this is be­cause the coun­try has de­vel­oped a unique high-end prod­uct that does not need many lo­cal jobs to draw in the for­eign ex­change from tourists.

The sur­vey also in­di­cates that Kenya is one of the best in the re­gion when it comes to gov­ern­ment pri­ori­ti­sa­tion and bu­reau­cracy in the tourism sec­tor. The qual­ity of ho­tels and in­fra­struc­ture in the coun­try is highly re­garded .The coun­try is only dragged down by safety and se­cu­rity and price com­pet­i­tive­ness. The na­tion has suf­fered a se­ries of neg­a­tive travel ad­vi­sories due to the ter­ror­ism threats. The Kenyan gov­ern­ment has how­ever been work­ing hard to fight ter­ror­ism and have in­creased se­cu­rity mea­sures.

Kenya has poor price com­pet­i­tive­ness;

The East African Gov­ern­ment views tourism de­vel­op­ment not only as an in­te­gral stake for na­tional de­vel­op­ment, but also as a means to ease poverty, gen­er­ate for­eign rev­enue and con­trib­ute to wildlife con­ser­va­tion. Re­cently, three of the East African coun­tries (Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) launched an on­line por­tal in a bid to mar­ket the re­gions as a sin­gle tourism des­ti­na­tion.

this is brought about by Kenya’s rel­a­tive strength of the Kenyan shilling com­pared to the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries and the high cost of liv­ing in the coun­try. This has led to a neg­a­tive im­pact when it comes to at­tract­ing a price-con­scious tourist. Tan­za­nia scores highly in price com­pet­i­tive­ness ow­ing to the rel­a­tively lower cost of liv­ing and its weak cur­rency. It is how­ever let down by its busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, tax regime and com­pet­i­tive­ness. It is also very hard to find skilled em­ploy­ees in the tourism in­dus­try be­cause of the drag on staff train­ing and the de­gree of cus­tomer ori­en­ta­tion.

Rwanda scores high on safety and se­cu­rity and busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment and lo­gis­tics. The coun­try also boasts highly ef­fec­tive mar­ket­ing cam­paigns to pro­mote the Rwanda brand. The coun­try’s weak­ness comes in the lack of nat­u­ral as­sets since it is a small, highly pop­u­lated na­tion. It also has very few tourism in­fra­struc­tures. It also ranks poorly on the price com­pet­i­tive­ness. Uganda is at­trac­tive to the price-con­scious tourist. The coun­try’s main weak­ness is in its in­fra­struc­ture and the fact that the gov­ern­ment has not pri­ori­tised the tourism sec­tor as much as it should. It has the weak­est mar­ket­ing and brand­ing in the re­gion.

The gov­ern­ments, es­pe­cially the Kenyan gov­ern­ment are work­ing to con­tin­u­ally im­prove its in­fra­struc­ture and put in place ef­fec­tive cam­paigns that will at­tract more tourists and in­vest­ment in the sec­tor. The re­cently launched SGR elec­tri­cal train is said to help boost lo­cal tourism and give a scenic jour­ney to trav­ellers. The gov­ern­ments have worked to­gether to launch fairs such as Karibu fair and ex­hi­bi­tions, which are meant to show­case the wildlife sa­fari beach, cul­ture and her­itage and busi­ness in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in

Ac­cord­ing to the WEF 2017 Travel and Tourism Com­pet­i­tive­ness In­dex, it is revealed that Kenya’s travel and tourism sec­tor is the most com­pet­i­tive among the four East African economies. The re­port also ranks Tan­za­nia in first place when it comes to earn­ings from tourism. Tan­za­nia made $2.2 bil­lion from the tourism sec­tor, while Uganda comes in sec­ond at $ 1.1 bil­lion, Kenya is in the third po­si­tion at $ 723 mil­lion, and Rwanda came in the fourth po­si­tion at $ 317 mil­lion.

East Africa.

In Fe­bru­ary this year, Kenyan Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary, Na­jib Balala an­nounced that in­ter­na­tional tourist ar­rivals in the coun­try had in­creased by 16.7 per­cent. He said it was a clear sign that the tourism re­cov­ery cam­paigns were ef­fec­tive. He also hoped that the trend will con­tinue.

Rwanda for one has been do­ing a lot of brand cam­paigns. Last year, the "re­mark­able Rwanda” cam­paign gave the coun­try a ro­bust up­surge in the tourism sec­tor. It also got a huge boost through con­fer­ence tourism. For in­stance, the Ki­gali con­ven­tion cen­tre opened its doors to host the African Union Heads of State Sum­mit, which gath­ered African pres­i­dents and other high-pro­file in­di­vid­u­als from across the con­ti­nent un­der one roof. In 2016, Rwanda wel­comed thou­sands of in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence and event vis­i­tors.

In Tan­za­nia, Al­loyce Nzuki, the Deputy Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Tourism said that the gov­ern­ment is work­ing to also boost its tourism sec­tor. He said the gov­ern­ment particularly fo­cused on heavy in­vest­ments in mar­ket­ing, hos­pi­tal­ity and in­fra­struc­ture to boost tourism in the na­tion, specif­i­cally the south­ern and western tourist cir­cuits. “The gov­ern­ment will also put a lot of em­pha­sis on in­vest­ments in her­itage sites to at­tract more tourists vis­it­ing his­tor­i­cal ar­eas," said Nzuki. He said most of the tourist who vis­ited the coun­try com­plained about poor roads, air­port in­fra­struc­ture and ho­tels. He added that the gov­ern­ment was com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing and pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able growth in the travel and tourism sec­tor in the na­tion so as to pre­serve its nat­u­ral and cul­tural re­sources.

On the other hand, Uganda has been work­ing hard on the 'pearl of Africa' brand cam­paigns. Last year, the coun­try launched the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo, which was re­ally suc­cess­ful .It also hosted Africa’s first ever bird­ing expo at the Botan­i­cal Gar­dens En­tebbe. This ex­posed Uganda as the world’s pre­mium des­ti­na­tion in Africa. The coun­try has con­tin­ued to reg­u­late its tourism sec­tor by boost­ing and ef­fec­tively mar­ket­ing it­self as the best African des­ti­na­tions to visit. John Ssem­pebwa, deputy Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Uganda Tourism Board said that there is still more room for im­prove­ment. He urged his fel­low Ugan­dans to con­tinue pro­mot­ing the coun­try as a world class travel des­ti­na­tion. He added that they were on the right track. He reaf­firmed that they were fully com­mit­ted to trans­form­ing the Ugan­dan tourism sec­tor by re­fin­ing their mar­ket­ing strat­egy.

The East African tourism sec­tor still re­mains an untapped gold mine but hope­fully, the re­gion will be­gin to ex­pand its in­fra­struc­ture and fo­cus on mar­ket­ing and brand­ing East Africa as the ‘go-to‘ des­ti­na­tion. With the right mar­ket­ing strat­egy, good in­fra­struc­ture, gov­ern­ment support and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, East Africa is bound to at­tract more tourists. Now that the coun­tries are com­ing to­gether, it will go a long way in es­tab­lish­ing the re­gion as a hot des­ti­na­tion point.

East Africa is a beau­ti­ful re­gion with in­nu­mer­able at­trac­tions, great peo­ple and is ooz­ing with rich cul­tural her­itage . It has a lot to of­fer all kinds of tourists. It has the promise to wet the ap­petite of any thrill–seeker. Its un­tamed yet stun­ning scenery, its hos­pitable in­hab­i­tants and its pul­sat­ing cul­ture are bound to give trav­ellers not only the time of their lives, but un­for­get­table mem­o­ries un­der the fa­mous hot African sun.

The Tan­za­nian gov­ern­ment is work­ing to boost it's tourism sec­tor and we are particularly fo­cused on heavy in­vest­ments in mar­ket­ing, hos­pi­tal­ity and in­fra­struc­ture to boost tourism in the na­tion, specif­i­cally the south­ern and western tourist cir­cuits. We will also put lots of em­pha­sis on in­vest­ments in her­itage sites to at­tract more tourists vis­it­ing his­tor­i­cal ar­eas." - Al­loyce Nzuki, Deputy Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary, Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Tourism, Tan­za­nia

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