Eastern Africa News Network

World Tourism Day: Closed Skies Hit East Africa Travel Industry

As the entire globe marks world tourism day East African Countries are yet to open up their roofs and liberalize airspaces to boost travel industry in the region.

The Chairperson of the East African Tourism Platform Fred Odek, warns that closed skies disrupts harmonization of air transport services in East Africa.

Odek feels that the existing different restrictive Bilateral Air Service Agreements among the Partner States are to blame.

Countries forming the East African Community so far include Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the founding members.

Others are Rwanda, Burundi, South-Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Each of these is tightly closing its roof against neighbors.

Experts in the industry are thus advising that the EAC Partner States should speed up liberalization of air travel in the region.

The East African Tourism Platform reports that air fares in the East African region remain extremely expensive.

The high costs of travel within the region is said to be caused by the tightly locked skies.

That is among the observations from the ongoing Second East African Community Tourism Expo, taking place in Bujumbura, Burundi.

“It is more expensive to fly from any of the East African country to another, than travelling overseas,” says the EATP official.

And the high-flying cost is due to the lack of open skies and heavy taxes levied by each of the Partner States’ governments.

Good Old Days: East African Countries Once operated a joint airline

However, the East African Single Tourist Visa and use of national IDs as travel documents across the region are some of the best policies that have been applied in the East African Community.

Vice President of Burundi Prosper Bazombanza who officially graced the Expo in Bujumbura says the potential for the sector across the region remains largely untapped.

“Despite the fact that East African Countries are benefiting from tourism through the sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product, foreign exchange earnings and creation of jobs.”

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