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East Africa woos European tourists with single visa

10 March 2014, 08:42

Nairobi - Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda are jointly wooing European tourists with their newly introduced single visa which took effect in January.

The three countries which are part of the five-member East Africa Community (EAC) bloc presented their joint single tourist visa to the world during the ongoing International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin, Germany on Friday.

Heads of delegations from the three EAC nations that are part of a tripartite agreement praised the move on the visa, launched three weeks ago by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda as a bold move that will boost regional integration and ease the movement of tourists across the region.

Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for East Africa Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Phyllis Kandie said whereas in the past tourists visiting the three countries had to seek separate visas in a cumbersome and costly process, all they needed now was to acquire one visa at 100 U.S. dollars and visit the three states as many times as they wished for three months.

"This will harmonize immigration procedures, help curb cross- border insecurity, enable tourists have a one-stop border check point and generally open the region for more visitors," she said in a statement received in Nairobi on Saturday.

The lack of a regional common visa has been a major drawback towards marketing East Africa as a single tourist destination.

Foreign tour operators have 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.

Previously, foreign tourists visiting EAC countries are required to stamp their passports in each EAC country visited. The EAC is also in the final stages of implementing a single visa for the five member states.

The single tourist visa resulted from a joint initiative and decision made by the Heads of State of the respective countries.

Before the establishment of the single entry visa for Kenya was 50 dollars, for Uganda was 50 dollars and Rwanda was 30 dollars.

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