UN tourism agency recommend Africa to ease 'visa' regulations

The head of the UN tourism agency called on African countries to ease visa regulation to help promote the tourism sector.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) secretary-general Taleb Rifai told the East African Tourism Development forum in Kenya’s Mombasa that visa facilitation was key to unblocking tourism potential in the region.

"Increased connectivity and visa facilitation are key to unlock greater opportunity for each and every destination," Rifai told the conference.

The UNWTO chief praised the single travel visa among the East African countries, saying it supports regional tourism. Rifai said visa facilitation is key to unlock greater opportunities for each and every destination.

"Introduction of East Africa Visa which allows travel between Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda will boost regional travel and create opportunities for tourist to explore the diversity East Africa destination," he added.

The remarks came after Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda in 2014 introduced a single tourist Visa for visitors in the region and also agreed that their citizens use individual country’s nation ID cards to cross each other’s borders.

The moves have been lauded by partner states as they are expected to cut down on bureaucracy and ease movement of goods and people.

Foreign tour operators had complained of cumbersome immigration procedures at border entry points for those who wish to cover various circuits in East Africa.

In particular, the requirement for tourists to disembark from Kenya tour vehicles to board the Tanzanian vehicles while crossing into Tanzania has been a major point of complain by the international and local tour operators.

Kenya allows tour vehicles from the East Africa Community (EAC) to operate in the country.

Industry watchers say the common visa will ease travel arrangements for those intending to tour East African attractions.

East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie said the government was doing everything possible to improve the sector, which is the source of employment and wealth to many Kenyans.

The conference has been organized by the UNWTO brought together participants from 10 countries.

Deputy President William Ruto said there is need for the East African countries to work towards the realization of the Single Tourist Visa to be able to ease and develop regional tourism.

"The Kenyan Government has gone a step further and set up an online portal through which one can apply for a visa and receive it within 48-72 hours of application."

He said Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have implemented single tourist visa to open doors for potential tourist from all over the world.