KIGALI, Rwanda

Tourism companies in the East African Community (EAC) bloc are to market the region as a single tourism destination as part of a recovery plan for the virus-hit industry, officials said on Wednesday.

This will involve developing special tour packages for the region covering airfare, popular attractions, and accommodation at reasonable rates, according to Fred Odek, the outgoing chairperson of the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP), a grouping of private tourism firms in the region.

The EAC is a regional intergovernmental organization founded in 1967 that currently has six partner states: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Odek said the plan is aimed at addressing the challenges brought by the COVID-19 crisis and taking the tourism industry back to the pre-pandemic level.

Tourism in the region was badly hit, with the sector poised to face 92% slowdown in cash flows as the pandemic brought international travel to a grinding halt, according to a recent report by the East Africa Business Council.

Tourism contributes an average of 8.1% to the EAC bloc’s GDP, 17.2% to export earnings, and accounted for 7.1% of employment in the region, the report said.

Four of the bloc’s members – Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania – have earned the World Travel and Tourism Council’s health and safety approval and have been designated as safe travel destinations.

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