East Africa: Cut Air Travel Cost, EAC Countries Told

Tourism stakeholders have decried the high cost of air travel in East Africa and poor air connectivity among the major cities.

Meeting under the aegis of the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP), they called for the speeding up of the once envisaged open skies policy to boost the crucial sector.

"Connectivity is poor due to lack of direct flights," said Mr Fred Kaigua, the CEO of the Kenya Association of Tour Operators.

He told the Validation Forum on Friday that the East African Community (EAC) partner states were yet to harmonise their legislation on tourism cooperation, including embracing the open skies policy.

Mr Richard Rugimbana, the executive secretary of the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania, urged governments of the partner states to promote intra-regional flights for the tourists, adding that domestic tourism has a great potential in the bloc.

He called on TradeMark East Africa (a not-for-profit organization which supported the formation of EATP, to extend more financial support to tourism and hotel associations in the five EAC member countries.

The one-day forum, which attracted tourism players from the five partner states, discussed liberation/open skies policy and improve air and road transport and liberalization/free movement of tourism services vehicles, among other issues.

A member of EATP from Tanzania, Mr Leopold Kabendera, said the EAC states have to improve the tourism infrastructure including the roads to the national parks and tourist attractions.

He suggested training institutions on the hospitality industry within EA should be harmonize their curriculum and that it should include the training of tour guides and hotel and air travel employees.

Mr Kabendera has been in the tourism business for over 40 years, having worked with the now defunct Tanzania Tourist Corporation and the hotels that were under the state corporation.

Until recently, Mr Kabendera was a senior official of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, a lobby group for the industry based in Arusha.

EAPT is the private sector body for tourism in EA working to promote the interest and participation in the region. It was set up in 2011 to facilitate active and focused engagement of the private sector in the EAC regional integration process.

The body works closely with the national ministries responsible for Tourism, Wildlife, Trade and Transport portfolios, the EAC Secretariat, the East African Business Council and the private sector organizations in all the EAC partner states.

Source: The Citizen