- Several bottlenecks have continued to hinder the growth of tourism in East Africa, delegates to the First East African Investment Conference in Rwanda were told.
Despite boasting some of the world's leading tourists attractions, tourism in the region has not been moving fast. The Executive Director of Tanzania Investment Centre Emmanuel ole Naiko even heightened the fears when he said East Africa "has a long way to go to compete with other regions in attracting tourists."
He said the region's tourism industry is still dogged by poor service provisions, prohibitive costs of doing business, immigration barriers and poor infrastructure.
"The region is well known for several wildlife attractions, mountain climbing and beaches, but the quality of services to tourists is not yet up to the required standard," he said, revealing that many reputable international firms keen on investing in the region's tourist industry.
"But some of them have abandoned their plans because the cost of doing business in East Africa still remains high," he said.
An earlier Work Bank survey also cited East Africa's high cost of business compounded by major barriers that scare off potential investors. The lack of free movement of the East African Community member states' citizens and goods has also taken its negative toll on regional trade. Citizens of the five EAC member states - Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi - require a visa to enter member states.
Mr Naiko said the poor infrastructure and "general poor state of most roads" also hinder growth in the region's tourism sector.
A total of 3,310,065 tourists visited the East Africa last year. Kenya, the region's biggest economy got 2,001,0034, Tanzania 719,031, 550,000 while Rwanda recorded 40,000. The country with a fast growing economy whose main tourist attractions include the mountain gorillas in the Virunga Hills, recorded 26,000 visits in 2004.
Tourism in Burundi is also picking up significantly, though statistics on last year's tourists arrivals are yet to be made public. The country recorded 133,000 and 148,000 in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
While Tanzania targets to hit a million tourists arrivals in 2010, Rwanda is adjusting itself to record 50,000 tourists in 2008. If Tanzania's target succeeds, the industry would add an extra US $1.7 billion in 2010.
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