Ugandan tour operators come together on the great Virunga cross-border partnership

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The Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) participated in the engagement of the Regional Technical Committee for Greater Virunga Cross Border Collaboration (GVTC) as part of the association’s partnership campaign. The delegation met in Rwanda from March 17 to 20, 2022 to discuss collaboration between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda in the field of tourism.

The Greater Virunga covers areas of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo which are of major interest to tour operators from all the countries mentioned. AUTO is a permanent member of these committees as a key player in tourism in the Greater Virunga Landscape.

Representing the Association, the CEO, Albert Kasozi, voiced Ugandan tour operators’ concerns to be addressed in the yet to be launched GVTC regional tourism development plan. The CEO also held meetings with key tourism stakeholders in Rwanda, including engagement with the Rwanda Chamber of Tourism and East Africa Tourism Platform, accompanied by officials from GVTC and UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority).

The main areas of discussion focused on the need to work closely with Rwanda’s private sector.

Areas of concern are joint tourism marketing; joint participation and organization of trade fairs; joint roadshows, ie regional and international; and joint tourism research, among others. It was agreed that a framework (a memorandum of understanding) should be generated to achieve the said objectives and that the parties gather ideas through the memorandum of understanding and identify areas they would like to address as private sector. They agreed on timelines to achieve what was discussed.

AUTO also spoke with the Tourism Department of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) at the board headquarters and at the Ugandan Embassy in Kigali on 21 March 2022. At the RDB, the parties discussed requirements and procedures for border crossing with tourists and how the RDB can facilitate the movement of Ugandan tour operators into Rwanda, the COVID-19 protocols for entry into national parks in Rwanda and the establishment of partnerships and working relationships between AUTO and RDB through the Rwanda Tourism Chamber (the umbrella body for the private tourism sector in Rwanda).

Access to gorilla permits and other tourism services in Rwanda was also discussed. AUTO asked RDB to regulate the relationship between Ugandan tour operators and Rwandan tour operators, including organizing familiarization trips for Ugandan tour operators to enhance their product knowledge.

The parties also discussed the status of East African tourist visas in Rwanda, whereby travelers from any country can obtain a multiple-entry visa that allows entry into the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of Uganda for tourism over a period of 90 days.

At the Ugandan Embassy in Kigali, the parties also discussed how to promote tourism and create opportunities for Ugandan tour operators in Rwanda, the need to have a liaison person at the Embassy to work directly with tourism stakeholders and how the Embassy can work with the private sector to promote tourism activities. RDB officials have promised to share official communication with AUTO on protocols and requirements for tourism activities in Kigali.

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