East African Community (EAC) partner states Ministers responsible for tourism recently resolved to address any negative travel advisory jointly as a community by issuing a general statement that must be officially released by the East African Community Secretariat through the Secretary General Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera.
At the World Travel Market held in London recently they adopted this pro-active approach to pre-empt the issuing of such negative travel advisories that have negatively affected the tourism sector in the region.
It is commendable that the ministers are now adopting a proactive approach to pre-empt the issuing of such negative travel advisories through holding consultations on safety and security aspects in each country by giving relevant updates on travel information within East Africa and to the international travellers.
Last July, the United States of America embassy in Kenya issued a travel advisory advising Americans not to visit coastal towns mainly Mombasa but ended up also affecting the Tanzania tourism sector.
The world media, and most people in the western world think of Africa as a single state. As a result, when the US issues any such advisories, it is assumed all the countries in Africa are unsafe.
It is therefore not fair for countries to issue travel advisories without consulting the local countries concerned. This is because the economies are affected by the reduction in tourism numbers and reluctance of investors to trade in such affected countries.
East Africa is safe for tourism. This has been demonstrated time and again. For a very long time, we have not had cases of tourists being affected, apart from the unfortunate incident in Kenya a while ago, which the Kenyan government took as seriously as invading Somalia to root out the cause of the problem, the Al-Shabaab rebels.
East Africa has put her weight and the might of her armies into Somalia because we are aware of the negative impact of both the pirates and also the terrorists.
It is now up to the leaders in East Africa to report honestly and use the isolation strategy, to assure the people of the Community and their visitors that adequate security is provided in the region
The Tourism and Trade associations also have to ensure continuous dialogue with all Commonwealth member countries and to advise Commonwealth member countries to notify the EAC secretariat before publishing any travel warnings.
With this united front, not only will we reduce on the negative press, we shall also enhance development.