By Claire Wanja
NAIROBI, The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has recognized Kenya’s efforts for innovation, participation and involvement in the pursuit of a single East Africa Tourism visa, awarding Kenya the prize for innovation and excellence in tourism, in public policy and governance during the 12th edition of the UNWTO’s awards in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday.
The award recognizes a highly innovative initiative by an individual, a country or a body that is managed by a public or a public-private institution and which reflects tangible and sustainable improvements in policy, processes and governance.
In 2014, three East African countries — Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda — came together and introduced a single visa with a view to facilitating free movement of tourists and citizens alike in the three countries.
Kenyan Tourism Cabinet Secretary (Minister) Najib Balala acknowledged the award, saying it was a boost to tourism in the EAC countries and would go a long way in showing other countries that for economies to thrive, countries must work together in the tourism sector.
The UNWTO also recognized the fact that apart from providing an opportunity for free movement, tourists visiting the three EAC countries are also able to maximize value for money.
It is cost effective and provides a good platform for building on regional integration.
By offering diversified tourism products, the three member countries are also able to increase their tourism numbers, hence building their economies.
The three countries are also negotiating and implementing the use of National IDs as travel documents for citizens of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, allowing free movement of tourism services, partial liberalization of EAC airspace and joint marketing initiatives which is mainly under the East Africa Northern Corridor.
In September 2015, the three countries also launched the e-visa application initiative in efforts towards digitization and to make it possible for visitors to get visa-in-advance, hence removing the anxiety of whether one will be able to get it or not at the point of entry.
The East Africa Tourism Platform, the regional body that works towards promoting the interest of the private sector in the EAC integration process has been instrumental in Kenya’s win.