East African countries Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya failed to implement the all-new three-country single tourist visa on 1 January, as was promised at last year's World Travel Market in London. For months, tourists, tour operators and local tourism industries anticipated the single tourist visa, which will enable tourists to move freely between these countries with only a single visa. The single joint visa promises costs and administrative savings, and more convenient movement between these member countries. But it was with great disappointment that everyone learnt about the delay in getting the system up and running.
On 2 January, an official statement was issued by the tourism sectors of these countries confirming a delay – but little information was provided on why the delay and more importantly, how soon the issues will be resolved. More positive news has come forth, and now the tourism world can expect the single tourist visa to be available 'any day now'.
Good news: active single visa system
The lack of official preparation for the single three-country visa has left many confused, especially as the promises of a single tourist visa prompted tourists to adapt their travel plans, duration of stay and of course travel budgets. It seems as if logistical constraints were the culprit – after all, working together on issuing a single tourist visa is a whole new tourism territory of these three countries. The good news is that the tourism and national affairs departments of these countries are seemingly sorting the issues and delay, and there are promises of an active single visa system. According to Rwanda’s Directorate of Immigration & Emigration, everything is in place to start issuing the single tourist visa without further delay.
The single tourist visa will be available from the member country’s entry point, or at relevant foreign mission offices. Tourists seeking to obtain this three-country visa need to present national identity cards, which will also serve as an acceptable travel document in these countries.
Tapping into the region’s possibilities as one single tourism destination, the single tourist visa system will only be launched officially later this year – and will take place alongside tourism marketing for this new single East African travel destination.
Although officials sound more positive on the implementing of the new single tourist visa system and the issuing of the visas, tourists are reminded that this is a totally new system, necessitating the three member countries to work together. Glitches are to be expected, but the good news is that the single tourist visa is expected from these East African countries without further major delays.