Arusha. Tanzania and Kenya have agreed to come closer in the tourism sector.
The two countries will form a committee to identify how to address hitches holding back the growth of the key economic sector.
The committee will, in turn, suggest ways to ensure the two states and the East African region in general, attracted more tourists.
This was agreed during a high level meeting of ministers/cabinet secretaries responsible for Tourism and senior officials from both sides in Arusha on Friday.
The committee of technical experts will prepare a report on how to improve cooperation of the two countries which lead in attracting visitors from abroad.
The recommendations would be forwarded to the ministers and be followed by drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the same. Speaking at the meeting, the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Damas Ndumbaro said Tanzania was determined to work with its northern neighbour in tourism development. “Once recommendations are made we ministers will meet to agree on the way forward,” he told reporters at the Ngorongoro Tourism Tower. Dr Ndumbaro said tourism was a key sector for the economies of both Tanzania and Kenya despite the outbreak of Covid-19. For Tanzania, the sector contributed 21.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 25 percent of forex generation prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.
The sector also generated about six million direct and indirect jobs before Covid-19 and that efforts must be made to ensure a rebound.
The minister said Tanzania will be privileged to host the first East African Community (EAC) Tourism Expo that will take place here next month. Next year, the country would host a high level meeting on tourism under the auspices of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO).
Kenya cabinet secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala said increased cooperation between the two countries would attract more visitors to the region.
He appealed for the fast-tracking of a proposed MoU on tourism cooperation between his country and Tanzania and suggested it should be completed in three months’ time. The cabinet secretary also called for the revival of the 1985 tourism cooperation framework between the two countries which, according to him, has stalled.
“We need the framework of 1985. It should either be revived or replaced with another agreement,” he said. Mr Balala said Kenya has managed to increase the share of domestic tourists to a third of all visitors to its attractions in response to Covid-19. However, he said, his country trailed Tanzania in tourism revenues before the outbreak of the pandemic early last year.
According to him, Tanzania earned more than $2billion in 2019, while Kenya’s tourism generated about $1.6billion in tourist receipts.
The EAC deputy secretary general (Planning and Finance) Steven Mlote said Tanzania and Kenya have to agree on the movement of tourists across borders.
The East African region anticipates to receive 3.75 million foreign tourists this year, a 1.5 million rise from 2.25 million recorded last year. This is as efforts are underway to resurrect the multi-million dollar sector which was hardly battered by Covid-19 outbreak.
Sources at the EAC secretariat in Arusha said the visitors had reached a record 6.9 million in 2019 before the pandemic. With the virus restricting travel within the region and around the globe, the visitors dropped sharply to 2.25 million last year.
“This year (2021) we are expecting a total of 3.75 million tourists, 1.5 million more compared to last year”, said Simon Kiarie, the principal tourism officer.
The bulk of the tourists from abroad to EA normally head to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and a few to Burundi and South Sudan.