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Bumpy ride: EAC single tourist visa plan delayed by national and regional red tape

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Reluctance by Tanzania and Burundi to join the visa plan and national and regional bureaucratic hurdles delay project. TEA Graphic

Reluctance by Tanzania and Burundi to join the visa plan and national and regional bureaucratic hurdles delay project. TEA Graphic 

By Joint Report The EastAfrican

Posted  Saturday, January 25   2014 at  17:37

In Summary

  • Decision by Dar es Salaam has not only made the journey longer but also exposed the bureaucratic and nationalistic hurdles that continue to haunt the plan.
  • In the absence of a legally binding framework to implement these projects, action and pace has largely depended on the willingness of the different countries.
  • Players see the low spending by regional countries as one of the biggest threats to realising the benefits of a joint regional tourist visa, especially as the region needs to have both country-specific and regional marketing plans.
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East Africa’s quest for a single tourist visa has received a setback after Tanzania indicated last week that it is not ready to join the arrangement.

The decision by Dar es Salaam has not only made the journey longer but also exposed the bureaucratic and nationalistic hurdles that continue to haunt the plan.

Last week, Tanzanian authorities said that they will adopt the single tourist visa plan later, and gave their blessings to the other EAC partner states to go ahead with the arrangement.

And a similar deal sponsored by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda under the so-called Coalition of the Willing (CoW) has been pushed back, at least by a month, following procurement hiccups.

The three countries had agreed in principle to issue a joint $100 East African tourist visa allowing visitors to enter the three countries without restrictions from January 1, 2014.

Delays in procurement

But in an address to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) on Tuesday, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni said delays in procurement of the necessary infrastructure had pushed the date to next month. Tourists have had to seek and pay for visas in each of the member states they visit.

The CoW partners decided to roll out the joint visa after they realised that Tanzania and Burundi were dilly-dallying on joining the scheme.

It is understood that countries have had reservations about different issues such as security, collection and distribution of revenue and efficiency of the single visa regime in stimulating tourism growth.

The distribution of revenues has been a major issue. The proposed arrangement is such that the visa fee collected will be shared among member states, with the issuing country taking $10 and the remaining $90 shared equally among member states.

This means that Kenya — though expected to be largest visa issuing country due to its more advanced air transport connections — stands to lose at least $10 for every regional visa it issues.

“Uganda will lose at least $20 on each visa, but an increase in visitors should cover this loss,” said Grace Aulo, the acting director in charge of tourism in Uganda.

Tanzania charges $50 for single-entry visas and $100 for multiple entry visas for each applicant. In 2012, it is estimated that Tanzania earned over $50 million in single entry visa fees alone — good income in a country where the official annual tourism earnings stand at $1.82 billion.

Tanzania’s EAC Minister Samuel Sitta on Friday last week said Dar was uncomfortable with the single visa arrangement, arguing it was a threat to the country’s security and economy.

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