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Kenya, Rwanda push for EAC tourist visa

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 2– Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Kenya’s Tourism Minister Najib Balala have called for the fast-tracking of a single tourist Visa for the East African Community to facilitate the promotion of the region as a single tourist destination.

Speaking in Kigali during the official celebration of Rwanda’s victory in the 2009 International Tourism Bourse (ITB) held in Germany last month, the two leaders noted that the introduction of a common Visa would clear existing barriers that prevent tourists from enjoying the diverse products and experiences with ease.

Rwanda emerged the “Best African Exhibitor” for a third time in a row since 2007 at the ITB while Kenya was placed third. The ITB is the largest tourism trade fair in the world and is held annually in March in Berlin.

Minister Balala who was representing both the country and EAC Ministers at the celebrations congratulated Rwanda for her victory which he described as an honour to the region.

“The Government of Kenya will support Rwanda in training of hospitality industry personnel at the Kenya Utalii College in order to build and enhance her capacities in the tourism sector,” Mr Balala said.

President Kagame said he would consult with the EAC Heads of State with a view to reaching an agreement on the need to participate in the future ITB Fairs as East African block to counter global challenges.

“The global financial crisis has affected tourism worldwide, and we therefore need policies and strategies that would diversify tourism industry in the region in order to ensure sustainability of the sector and cushion us against any unforeseeable shocks”, said President kagame.

Mr Balala assured Rwanda of Kenya’s support for the initiative to see the   East African Community participating at future ITB Fairs as a single destination exhibitor.

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