Tanzania has recently introduced an 18% Value-added tax (VAT) on tourism services , including ground transportation, tour guides, parks fees and camping fees. Hotel fees are not affected, as these are already subject to VAT.
Tour operators and other tourism stakeholders have appealed the government to repeal the tax, so far to deaf ears. Both Kenya and Zimbabwe issued new taxes on tourism recently, only to scrap them after realizing how badly these affects tourism. Thanks to internet, tourists today are more price-sensitive than ever, and will easily change their destination in favour of a cheaper option. Kenya’s recovering tourism will certainly benefit of new taxes in their southern neighbor.
Those of us used to travelling in Africa are likely to have seen trucks full of (usually) western tourists. That’s a fairly popular way of getting around Africa. Typical to overland truck tours is:
- Trucks specifically fitted to sustain rough roads and carry passenger, equipment and luggage
- Tours may last weeks, sometimes even months
- Tours cover more than one country
- Tours end at a different place (and country) than the starting point
- Many tours are planned to minimise costs (e.g. camping)
Most overland tours take place in Southern Africa. East Africa is another hotspot. A few operators offer tours also in Northern or Western Africa. The most popular route is arguably from Cape Town via Namibia and Botswana to Victoria falls, this itinerary takes usually around 20 days.
Kenya tourism industry has been hit hard last couple of years due to security fears following a series of terrorist attacks. The situation has improved since, and UK and US have lifted most of their travel warnings to Kenya. Recent high profile visits by Barack Obama and the Pope have further helped in restoring confidence in Kenya as a safe destination. To boost renewed interest in Kenyan tourism, the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta announced lower National Park fees, and waiving of visa fees for visitors under 16.
Lonely Planet, best known for large selection of travel guide books, has released its “Best in Travel in 2016” lists. Botswana was named the number one country to be visited. This is a great recognition to Botswana that has steadily improved its popularity among tourists over years.
Botswana businesses and industries, driven by mining, concentrate in southwestern parts of the country. In contrast, major tourist attractions – game parks and Okavango Delta – are mostly located in northern Botswana. Maun is the local tourism capital. It is a relatively small town, without much to do in itself, but is considerably more pleasant than big congested cities in other countries. Another small touristy town is Kasane, in the northeastern corner of the country. Both towns are connected to Johannesburg by direct flights.
UPDATE, July 30, 2016: The cost of Uganda single-entry visa has been reduced back to 50 USD, so the double price was a short experiment ending in a foreseeable failure. For Malawi, the current visa fees appear to be 75 USD for a 3-month-visa, or 50 USD for transit visa valid for seven days.
Just as Kenya stops issuing visa on arrival, two other African countries punish tourists by significantly increasing visa fees. Reports say that the cost of Ugandan single entry visa has been doubled from 50 to 100 USD, while the Malawi visa is or will be increased to 75 USD, while previously visa-exempt nationalities have to pay for a visa.
Western tourists are used to visit most countries of interest without having to pay for a visa, but just few of those countries are in Africa. Recent fee hikes further highlight the divide. Majority of potential tourists shun Africa due to numerous image problems the continent has, and new visa rules will not improve situation.
Starting from July 1st, 2015 Kenya introduced e-visa, meaning the Kenyan visa will be applied online from now on. Visa on arrival will be available until August 30, 2015, but thereafter every visitor to Kenya must have obtained the e-visa (save those from visa-exempt countries). Visa will be applied through the Kenya E-Citizen portal. Visa application process should take at least two days and up to a week. A visitor may be denied boarding a plane if he/she fails to provide a proof of a granted visa. Thus booking a trip to Kenya on a short notice will be difficult or impossible, as a consequence Kenya will lose potential tourists.
UPDATE JANUARY 2016: UniVisa no longer issued
UPDATE JANUARY 2017: Univisa issued again
A tourist on African tour will have to obtain visas to many countries visited, which will be a costly and time-consuming affair. To somewhat alleviate this problem, new cross-border visas have emerged. Recently I wrote a blog post on the East African Tourist Visa (covering Kenya Uganda and Rwanda), There is also UniVisa between Zimbabwe and Zambia (also known as Kaza Visa), which was launched in late 2014. UniVisa will be valid for 30 days and allows multiple entries between these two countries. Only certain nationals are eligible for Univisa (listed here). UniVisa is especially handy for visitors going to Victoria Falls, as travellers can now easily cross the border without having to pay for two separate visas. However, the visa is still not available from most border posts and some international airports.
East Africa is known for its athletes who dominate long-distance running. The best talent come from specific areas such as Nandi Hills in Kenya or Arsi Zone in Ethiopia. Running is increasingly popular activity in western countries too, not so much as a competitive sport but as an exercise. Yet many of them take the hobby rather seriously, training for marathons and other tough races. The question is can these East African countries develop “running tourism”, would amateur runners come to train or even compete in the “home of long-distance running”? Read the rest of this entry »