EAC Single Tourist Visas Set for Launch Next Month

The single visa project places responsibility on individual members to maximise revenue collection from foreign nationals entering the region through its borders.

Tourists watch birds at the Lake Nakuru National Park. Kenya could account for 50 per cent of revenues collected through the single tourist visas if it is implemented. FILE

Tourists watch birds at the Lake Nakuru National Park. Kenya could account for 50 per cent of revenues collected through the single tourist visas if it is implemented. FILE

Kenya’s open-border policy is headed for a crucial test next month when East African countries begin to issue single tourist visas following an agreement on how to share revenues.

The single visa project places responsibility on individual members to maximise revenue collection from foreign nationals entering the region through its borders.

Apart from EAC states, Kenya exempts passport holders from at least 40 other nations – among them Comesa, SADC, and a number Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea islands. It also has similar arrangements for citizens of Asian tigers like Malaysia and Singapore.

“We don’t have communication on how to treat these special cases which are secured under bilateral deals with various states,” an immigration official talking on condition of anonymity told the Business Daily on Thursday.

The official said the government was thinking of convincing its partners to allow it to retain the status quo because withdrawing the reciprocal deals could injure diplomatic relations.

Currently, a visitor who wishes to enjoy different tourist facilities in the region has to apply directly to each East African State for a visa.

On average, Kenya has received 1.6 million visitors annually in the last three years, accounting for 38 per cent of the 4.2 million that the five East African states received per year over the same period. The country charges $50 per single entry visa or $100 for multiple entry visas.

Tanzania, on the other hand charges a standard $100 on each of the about 783,000 tourists that visits its territory each year.

In the last four years since EAC became a common market, tourism industry players have been piling pressure on the economic bloc to come up with a single tourist visa for the whole region to boost numbers.

Kenya teamed up with Uganda and Rwanda in October to allay fear over revenue loss when it launched a regional tourist visa and chose January 2014 as its implementation date.

Under the single visa arrangement, a tourist will use the document obtained from Kenyan, Uganda or Rwandan authorities to visit all the three countries instead of having to make fresh application at every border point.

The three states say they have reached a revenue sharing deal but have been forced to push forward the implementation date to next month to enable technical teams to thrash out its finer details.

Out of the $100 (Sh8, 500) that each visitor will pay to obtain the EAC single tourist visa, the issuing state will automatically keep $10 (Sh850), the remaining $90 being shared equally among the participating member states.

With a three-year average of 982,000 annual visitors to Uganda and 666,000 per year to Rwanda, Kenya could account for 50 per cent of revenues collected through the single tourist visas if the exemptions were eliminated.

– Business Daily