Kenyas tourism ministry Najib Balala, at the end of the World Travel Market in London last Thursday, decried the slow pace of regional integration of the tourism industry, which in his words was hampering the sector capturing more tourists, generating more investment, creating more jobs and earning the entire region more foreign exchange.
Balala had in the past sent sharp reminders to his colleagues in the region over the delays in agreeing on a single tourist Visa for the East African Community and made an urgent appeal towards that end again during a joint EAC press conference given at the stand of Burundi, marking the end of WTM 2011.
Balalas sentiments are shared by many private sector stakeholders in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, with Tanzania notably keeping the foot on the brake over long lingering fears of Kenyas dominance of the sector, in the process keeping the Bologonja border post between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara closed for commercial traffic and hiding behind a mega wall of non-tariff barriers mostly affecting air traffic into the parks and access to the parks by foreign registered vehicles, a phrase often used to bash Kenya.
Balalas opinions though are now hugely strengthened by his recent election as Chairman of the UN World Tourism Organizations Executive Committeed, which gives him added clout, besides being entirely right of course on facts, to pile added pressure on his colleagues in the region to make good of a decade of promises and create this hitherto elusive One region with many attractions from which all can benefit equitably and equally.
Compiled by Jackie