Tuesday 30 June 2015

Burundi: Tourism Growth Affected By Bad Politics

Burundi has a great deal to offer tourists, including mountainous landscapes, natural parks, wildlife and access to one of Africa’s largest lakes. The country’s travel and tourism industry, however, remains undeveloped and only contributes marginally to the country’s GDP. Visitor numbers have only increased marginally since the peace agreement was set up in 2001 and many still consider the country too dangerous. In comparison with its neighbour Rwanda, a country with a similar sad history of ethnic violence, Burundi is still lingering on the starting blocks when it comes to attracting tourists. Opportunities for ecotourism Ecotourism is a niche area of travel and tourism in Burundi but has great potential to attract visitors. The national conservation areas, including Kibira National Park, Ruvubu and Lake Tanganyika, all offer unique natural habitats for wildlife. In addition, the country also holds a number of flourishing wildfowl lakes, such as the Rwihinda Lake Natural Reserve, which is a sanctuary for migratory, aquatic birds and has strong potential to attract many visitors. Plans by the government to boost nature-based tourism will help open up new tourist areas and, as a result, stimulate growth in tourism in Burundi. Poor infrastructure hinders tourism sector The infrastructure in Burundi remains poor and transportation and travel accommodation options for tourists are limited. Substantial improvements to infrastructure are planned, with funding coming from donors as well as public and private investment. Improvements to power supplies, transportation and communications facilities should all help with the future development of travel and tourism in Burundi. The 20-year infrastructure development plan that was put in place in 2010 by the Burundian government in conjunction with the African Development Bank has done little to improve the situation although the issue is becoming an increasingly important topic of discussion on the government’s agenda. Burundi’s peace continues Intertribal tensions in Burundi have had a devastating effect on the country since independence in 1962. A power-sharing agreement was set up in 2001 and, since then, around half a million refugees have returned home. A brittle peace reigns in Burundi although tensions have recently erupted again. This threatens the cautious strides that the travel and tourism industry made in 2011 and 2012. A single tourist visa throughout the East African Community (EAC) Despite plans to have it in place by July 2012, the single tourist visa for EAC members has not become operational. The EAC is made up of five countries: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, and plans were initially put forward in 2006 for a single visa issued by member state embassies and valid for access to any country within the EAC. The EAC secretariat highlighted the roll-out of the single tourist visa and common passport as one of the top priority projects for 2013. The visa will enable travel within any of the five countries in the EAC, as well as the possibility to travel between countries without the need for a further visa.

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