Kenya Tourism Federation, the umbrella body of private sector tourism associations has embarked on a massive sensitization and awareness campaign on the use of National Identification (NID) and the Single Tourism Visa (STV) for travel across the East Africa Community member countries.
This initiative follows a research report that was released in June that indicated limited and poor information availability on STV for travelers and immigration officials.
The survey which was commissioned by the Kenya Tourism Federation in partnership with Trademark East Africa revealed that Information availability on the Single Tourist Visa and use of National showed a response range of between very poor to just average with only 25 per cent of travellers and less than 15 per cent of immigration officials rating the current information as good.
KTF Ag. CEO Mrs. Susan Ongalo says it is with this in mind that Kenya Tourism Federation has embarked on an awareness campaign among immigration officers with a view of ensuring better information access.
Speaking in Kisumu during the inaugural sensitization forum, Ms Ongalo noted that while majority of immigration officials were aware of the existence of STV and countries involved, 67 per cent were not familiar with the cost of STV with 25 per centshowing lack of familiarity with regards to the application process.
“ It’s also of concern to us that the current STV processing procedure has been rated as very poor by travellers and therefore the need to review and advise on necessary improvement,” said Ms Ongalo.
Regarding the use of National Identity Cards to cross borders, the report indicated there is low level awareness with a significant proportion of 17 per cent or 8 out of 48 of immigration officials not being aware on the use of National Identity cards.
Trademark East Africa Kenya Country Director – Dr. Chris Kiptoo said lack of awareness, poor information availability and low institutional capacity have been identified as key challenges towards implementation of STV and NID.
Dr. Kiptoo noted that the survey recommended sensitization and training to enhance awareness amongst travel and tourism, trade and hospitality providers in major urban areas including Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, with emphasis to the border points.
“Sensitization on information availability for STV and use of NID will be important in improving information access to travellers, airline providers, tour operators, immigration officers, among others,” said Dr Kiptoo.
The Single East Africa Tourist Visa and use of national IDs for travel was officially launched by Heads of State of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda in Kampala, on the 20th February, 2014; completing one of the major integration projects jointly undertaken by the three countries.
The initiative is expected to ensure the three countries have a significant share of the registered 50 million tourists who visit the continent annually; as well as stir cross border economic and tourism growth.
Expected participating forum stakeholders include members from Lake Victoria Tourism Association, Rural Tourism Network, Western Tourism Circuit Association ,Tourism County Executives from Kisumu, Vihiga, Migori, Bungoma, Busia, Siaya, Homabay, Migori, Kisii and Nyamira Counties.
Immigration officers in Kisumu as well as those from the Buisia and Malaba border posts to ensure that both parties understand the advantages and opportunities that the use of the Single Tourist Visa and the Use of ID’s can impact the tourism industry in the region.