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Comesa bloc plans borderless tourism market

By XINHUA, Monday, August 27 2012 at 09:30: Tourism officials from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) bloc are working on a borderless tourism market as part of building a sustainable tourism industry across the 19 member countries.

Officials drawn from all member countries met in Nairobi last week to agree on issues such as developing a common selling point for regional tourism market, creating innovative and cheaper products to promote domestic tourism and improving the image of regional tourism on the international arena.

"The tourism offerings within Comesa are unique and diverse offering a huge tourism potential that we should exploit. As we do other things, we should also come up with modalities of correcting the bad image perception on the region created by the international media," Kenya's Tourism Minister Danson Mwazo said.

A borderless tourism market is part of integration efforts being undertaken within Comesa, an already free trade area that is set to link up with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the East Africa Community (EAC) by mid-2014 to create Africa's largest free trade area.

Issues discussed at the two-day conference included a proposal to review air travel costs within the region and increase of air traffic within major cities as lack of that currently makes it very expensive to travel by air. For instance, flying from Kenyan capital Nairobi to Burundian capital Bujumbura costs an estimated $725 by air, nearly the same cost of travelling from Nairobi to London and back.

Officials also agreed there is need by respective tourism markets to give focus to cultural preservation to ensure sustainability of tourism markets and as part of diversifying. For instance, while Tanzania is stronger on game and beach tourism, Swaziland is stronger in cultural tourism and therefore complements the regional tourism offerings.


Creating a borderless market is seen as the best way of encouraging domestic tourism to balance current over-dependence on tourists from Western countries. African economies are seen as growing and factors like new mineral resource discoveries and growing service industries have been tipped as growth drivers that will create adequate middle class with disposable income to travel within the region.

The conference in Kenya was the first in the series of Comesa's Sustainable Tourism Development Forum. The Nairobi conference was to analyse the regional diagnostic study of the member states meant to craft a plan for regional public and private approaches towards a more competitive, investor friendly and sustainable tourism sector in the region.

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