East Africa has revived plans to jointly market the region’s tourism as a bloc, in what could end a decade-long of back and forth among member states, as rivalry played out.

The marketing push builds on the 2023 East African Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE) and the Magical Kenya Tourism Expo (MKTE), where EAC member states agreed to enhance collaboration and adopt an integrated tourism marketing strategy, in order to boost competitiveness, attract more tourists and increase earnings.

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are leading the drive under a new EAC brand “Visit East Africa – Feel the Vibe”, launched in November during the regional expo in Nairobi, aimed at promoting the bloc as a single investment and travel hub.

The latest development come even as rivalry remains between Kenya and Tanzania, the biggest safari and beach destinations in the region.

The two countries share the annual wildebeest migration between the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Serengeti National Park, recognised as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

Tanzania has been taking advantage of Kenya’s costly products, mainly safari which includes high park entry fees and accommodation packages, to lure international guests to the Serengeti and other destinations.

This, even as the region faces stiff competition from other blocs in Sub-Sahara Africa, which are said to be taking advantage of EAC’s lengthy business procedures, insecurity and poor infrastructure to boost their competitive edge.

According to the World Economic Forum, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi have been trailing tourism giants such as Seychelles, Mauritius and South Africa, which have been a threat to EAC’s plans to position the region as the continent’s most attractive tourist destination, an idea mooted a decade ago.

Under the renewed marketing efforts, the EAC is now targeting to attract over 14 million international tourists annually by 2025, from 7.2 million in 2019.

Kenya, on its part, aims to capitalise on this collective momentum in its quest to achieve 5.5 million arrivals and $6.3 billion (Sh 827.6 billion) in tourism earnings by 2028.

The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has launched a strategic marketing campaign that involves influencers, to bolster Kenya’s tourism not only globally, but also within the East African Community market.

The board is partnering with renowned social media influencers and key media outlets from EAC member countries with an aim to elevate destination visibility, ignite travel interests and unearth new growth prospects.

Speaking during an event held to welcome the influencers and media contingent, KTB CEO June Chepkemei said that the EAC market has great potential for growth especially through regional integration.

She added that strategic deployment of marketing assets such as influencer marketing and media outreach can be pivotal drivers to spur demand and unlock new markets.

“The East African Regional Tourism Expo deliberations were a stepping stone to greater regional integration. The launch of the unified EAC tourism brand was an apt embodiment of this vision, and this influencer activation and media outreach is designed to further harness our collective strength for mutual benefit,” Chepkemei said.

According to last year’s tourism performance report, four of the top ten source markets to Kenya were from the EAC region – Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, and Rwanda,  highlighting the potential for growth.

 “With a shared history and cultures, the EAC region is uniquely positioned to offer diverse, multi-country itineraries that capture the imagination of travellers,” said Chepkemei.

Popular social media personalities and content creators from target EAC markets will highlight key attractions across various tourism hotspots spanning from Nairobi, Mt. Kenya, the Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru as well as the Coast.

East African Business Council (EABC) has been pushing for the marketing of the region as a single destination, as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) takes shape.

Tourism, financial sector, manufacturing and hospitality are some of the sectors that EAC member states can package together to the world, according to Chairperson Angelina Ngalula.

“East African countries have abundant resources with unique features from the coast of the Indian Ocean in Kenya and Tanzania, to mountain gorillas in Rwanda, an opportunity for companies to offer regional tourism packages,” Ngalula said.

Source: The Star.

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