THE East African Community (EAC) is joining the rest of the world in celebrating the World Tourism Day themed 'Tourism and Rural Development', being marked today, but with two-hour virtual session tomorrow.
Home to some of the beautiful wildlife sites in the world, the EAC region hosts a quarter of all protected areas in Africa and some of the greatest global concentrations of large mammals in both protected and non-protected areas.
The region is known for the unparalleled phenomenon of wildebeest migration that occurs annually between July and October in the Serengeti and Maasai Mara Ecosystem that traverses Kenya and Tanzania, as well as other world renowned tourist sites, such as the Ngorongoro conservation area, Amboseli National Park and Gorilla viewing in Rwanda and Uganda, among others.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Productive and Social Sectors, Mr Christophe Bazivamo noted that the tourism sector's contribution to the GDP in the region is estimated at 9 per cent, and an average of 20 per cent of export earnings.
"In regards to employment, the tourism industry contributes an average of 8 per cent to job creation in the partner states, that is about 4.2 million direct and indirect jobs in absolute terms, with a huge proportion of the jobs being generated in the rural areas. "Tourism has important backward linkages to the local economy, and therefore contributes to growth and employment in other sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing that benefits the local communities," said Mr Bazivamo.
Nowhere else in the world is this year's theme more fitting than the EAC Partner States, as most of the tourism products in the region are mainly nature based, and thus found in the rural areas.
The EAC region largely depends on national parks and reserves, as well as wildlife conservancies that traverse the entire region.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented economic disruptions that have dramatically affected the tourism sector in the region.
This has had far reaching effects, especially to the rural communities that depend on tourism through loss of jobs and livelihoods.
However, the EAC recognizes Tourism as one of the most resilient sectors, and is therefore prioritizing its recovery.
The recovery of the sector is also expected to stimulate the recovery of allied sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing that will also benefit rural communities.