Tanzania Hesitates on East African Community Single Tourist Visa Implementation

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Tanzania remains hesitant in embracing the operationalization of the East African Community (EAC) Single Tourist Visa, citing unresolved concerns regarding security, financial implications, and the efficacy of the scheme.

Officials from Dodoma expressed reservations at the recent EAC Council meeting held in June this year, raising pressing issues such as security measures, revenue-sharing mechanisms, and the effectiveness of the proposed single visa system for visitor screening.

While Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda have already initiated the Single Tourist Visa (STV) plan and express contentment with its implementation, Tanzania contends that the existing framework lacks EAC-wide standards. They advocate for a reassessment of the STV’s viability, stating that the initial 2010 study on member states’ readiness is outdated and necessitates a fresh evaluation of the current circumstances.

At a gathering chaired by Burundi’s Minister for Environment, Prosper Dodiko, the EAC resolved to seek consensus on the STV before implementing it in the coming year, emphasizing cooperation among partner states in tourism promotion and wildlife resource management.

Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation in Tanzania, Stephen Byabato, stressed the need for immigration departments, rather than tourism dockets, to oversee visa applications. He proposed conducting a new study on the region’s readiness for a unified visa, a proposition contested by Uganda, arguing it would consume additional time and resources.

The Sectoral Council proposed the coordination of an updated study by June 2024, with a framework for implementation set to be developed by December 31, 2024.

The initiative to establish a Single Tourist Visa originated from a directive set by the 11th Council of Ministers in Arusha in November 2006, highlighting the importance of the tourism sector to the EAC economy. Despite the recovery trajectory observed post-Covid-19, concerns persist regarding the visa application process and its potential impact on boosting international tourist arrivals in the region.

The tourism sector, accounting for a significant percentage of the region’s export earnings, GDP contribution, and job creation, remains integral to the region’s economic growth. The projected increase in tourist numbers by 2024 highlights the sector’s potential for driving economic progress if visa application procedures are streamlined.

The EAC aims to leverage investment opportunities in tourism, including resort city development, premium park branding, and promoting health and sports tourism, among other initiatives.

To address the concerns surrounding the Single Tourist Visa, the extraordinary council of ministers on Tourism and Wildlife Management convened in July 2021, directing a collaborative meeting to address the issues concerning immigration, security, tourism, and wildlife management.

Source: The East African and other internet sources.

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