The launch of a single tourist visa for tourists visiting Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya on January 1 presents the local services industry great opportunities to expand and enhance service delivery.
Denis Karera, the chairman of the Rwanda Hotels and Restaurants Association, said the initiative will increase the demand for hotel facilities and create more jobs for Rwandans.
"The initiative has opened a new chapter for the services sector. It will now be easy to form partnerships with industry players across the region. This will help enhance standards and skills, and create more avenues to raise funds to improve the sector," Karera said.
He, however, noted that the initiative presents huge challenges that call for building of more facilities to satisfy the demand that will result.
"We also need to improve service delivery to fully tap into this opportunity," Karera explained.
There are over 250 hotels (of different categories) in Rwanda.
Citizens from the three East African Community countries also started using national identification cards as travel documents to cross borders on the same day.
Using national identity cards and other agreed national documents, including voter's cards and student's identity cards, as travel documents is a project under a tripartite arrangement that was agreed on during a summit between the Heads of State of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya in Uganda in June last year. The leaders also agreed to establish a single tourist visa to promote tourism across the three countries.
The ID initiative aims at facilitating free movement of people within the region as stipulated in the East African Common Market protocol, the second stage of the integration process.
Innocent Safari, the Ministry of East African Community Affairs permanent secretary, said the two initiatives present an opportunity for Rwanda to harness untapped business opportunities.
Monique Mukaruliza, national co-ordinator of integration projects at the EAC affairs ministry, challenged Rwandans and local businesses to take advantage of the initiatives and design products to sell to tourists.
John Bosco Kalisa, the TradeMark East Africa programme manager, said using IDs at borders will reduce the cost of doing business in the three partner states.
How they will work:
The $100 single tourist visa ensures entry into the three countries without the burden of the holder seeking any other travel document.
The document that will be valid for 90 days will be bought at the point of entry in a member country or foreign missions of the partner states.
On the other hand, when one presents an ID, they are given a coupon by immigration officials, which process is repeated at the other side of the border. The coupon from the destination country is valid for six months.
The Heads of State are set to launch the two projects later this month.