TAKING STOCK OF TOURISM ADVOCACY ACHIEVEMENTS IN THE EAC
(Posted 03rd May 2017)
The East African Tourism private sector umbrella body, the East Africa Tourism Platform, earlier today spelled out their achievements in a country by country analysis, of their advocacy programmes and the impact those had on the respective tourism industries.
Notably did Burundi not feature in the report, likely because the country’s tourism industry has all but collapsed due to the political instability in that country and the subsequent impact this had on travel by foreign tourists, and even regional tourists to this small but tourism wise nevertheless attractive country:
– Tourism has a substantial and growing impact as a key economic driver in the East Africa Community (EAC).
– The industry has been identified as a reliable source of foreign exchange earnings, job creation, economic growth and diversification. It has potential multiplier effects on local, regional and national economies, through linkages with transport, agriculture, forestry, handicraft, construction, among other industries.
– Prosperity of tourism at the EAC level requires regional cooperation on standards, regulations, policies, and common public goods (such as infrastructure, roads and transport access) to grow in volume and economic impact.
– However, potential for tourism as an economic force in the region is being held back by a number of restrictions, necessitating the need for aggressive lobbying and advocacy. Below is a brief on major advocacy achievements on selected EAC partner states in the period spanning between 2016 and 2017.
– The private sector, through Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) has been constantly lobbying for policy and tax reforms.
– KATO’s lobbying for tax-free tourist vehicles with support from the Ministry of Tourism, received a nod with VAT-exemption on tourist vehicles in the 2017/2018 financial year. This is in addition to VAT-exemption on tour operators’ commissions.
– The private sector through Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) has constantly lobbied the government to review VAT-imposition on tourism services, Tourist Agents Licencing Authority (TALA) fees and complexities associated with the National Park Payment Systems and taxation regime.
– On Value Added Tax, TATO has done its best in engaging policy makers and national and international media in comprehensive coverage of issue.
– In addressing concerns with TALA, TATO has made tremendous progress in lobbying the government to review the fees. TALA levies an annual rate of US$ 2,000 per tour operator; regardless of sales volume or company size. TATO has proposed an alternative licensing regime to the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism. This regime espouses that:
a) Tour operators operating between 1 & 9 vans to pay US$ 200 per van per annum
b) Tour operators operating between 10 & 30 vans to pay US$ 2000 per annum
c) Tour operators operating between 31 & 50 vans to pay US$ 3000 per annum
d) Tour operators operating more than 51 vans to pay US$ 5000 per annum
– It is gratifying to note that the Minister has agreed, in principle, that TALA fees will be reviewed.
– The country has made tremendous progress in enhancing tourism competitiveness through policy reforms.
– A major break-through was witnessed with the recent adoption of the new tourism law that gives much emphasis on the sustainability of tourist association(s). It particularly stipulates that every practitioner must belong to the respective association before being licensed.
– The private sector, through Uganda Tourism Association has made remarkable progress in lobbying for conducive business environment. Among its achievements include:
a) Reduction of tourist visa fees from US$ 100 to US$ 50.
b) Reduction of taxes on hotel services in the forthcoming financial year.
c) Upgrading of roads in key tourist areas is in advanced stages.
– East Africa Tourism Platform has unreservedly lobbied for reforms to enhance tourism competitiveness within the region. Therefore, the aforementioned reforms are worth their while.
– We particularly acknowledge political goodwill exhibited by regional policy makers, especially the Kenyan Tourism Cabinet Secretary who has taken bold decisions to create a tourism-friendly business environment. This is the kind of leadership that will catapult the region to major tourism transformation.
– Nevertheless, the journey for standards, policy and tax reforms is far from over and we urge all stakeholders to pull together to address hindrances to tourism prosperity within the EAC and beyond.