Taking Kenya forward
EVEN as Kenya opens up newer areas to tourists and seeks increasingly diversified business, the country hopes to increase tourism arrivals to about 1.7 million this year, according to the Kenya Tourism Board.
The industry has grown tremendously in the recent past with international tourist arrivals to Kenya increasing from 1.15 million in 2003 to 1.5 million in 2005. The arrivals projection for 2006 is estimated to increase by 10 per cent over 2005.
Dr Ongong’a Achieng, managing director, Kenya Tourist Board, told media earlier this year that total arrivals for the first quarter of 2006 stood at 490,059 compared to 440,822 in 2005, an increase of 11.2 per cent over last year.
Tourism earnings for the year are projected to increase 10 per cent to KSh56 billion ($758 million) from KSh49 billion in 2005. Earnings for the first quarter increased eight per cent to Sh14.7billion compared to KSh13.6 billion in the same period last year.
Tourism in Kenya accounts for 12.7 per cent of GDP and generates 138,000 jobs directly and about 500,000 jobs indirectly.
Hotel occupancy in the first three months was up countrywide by an average of 25 per cent, sixty per cent of which was foreign nationals.
The UK remains Kenya’s major source market.
“The image of the Kenyan Coast is changing fast from that of mass tourism to a high-value destination,” says Achieng. As a result of the tourism sector improvement, the industry has responded positively to the increased demand of Kenya as a tourist destination with the establishment of new projects across the country.
Kenya has been promoting itself as a tourism destination in Middle Eastern media for some time now and has a lot to offer leisure tourists, says Fred Okeyo, regional marketing manager – Emerging Markets. “Kenya offers a number of products, including wildlife safaris in a natural environment, games parks and reserves, beaches within easy reach of the parks and with great marine life, cultural safaris where visitors can interact with more than 42 ethnic communities each with its own traditions, beliefs and lifestyle, scenic safaris that drive through Kenya’s range of landscapes from mountains to savannahs to desert, sports safari such as golf, water sports and so on.”
The country has excellent flight connections with the Middle East, making over 30 flights weekly to the GCC alone, with airlines such as Kenya Airways, Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Meanwhile, a tourism development plan for Western Kenya covering Nyanza and Western provinces has been launched, sponsored by the EU and Tourism Trust Fund at a cost of KSh5 million.
Okeyo says the ministry is opening new circuits beyond the traditional tourist areas. “These include the North Rift, i.e the Northern part of Kenya, the Western part of Kenya which includes Lake Victoria region, Kakamega Forest, Mt Elgon.”
With initiatives such as these, the country hopes to bring in more MICE business. Current MICE offerings include safaris, entertaiment and a cultural experience in authentic African setting, among others, but Okeyo says plans are in place to modernise and refurbish the Kenyatta International Conference centre as well as to expand hotel facilities in the urban areas, along the coast and in parks and reserves.
To the travel agent who is trying to market Kenya, Okeyo says the country is an all-round destination that provides good returns to the agent and also satisfies the client. “The main advice is that clients must plan ahead to avoid the last minute rush for accommodation. Most visitors to Kenya book well ahead of time, a situation that we would also want to see in GCC. Kenya can also be promoted as a short break destination given its fantastic weather and proximity to the Middle East.”
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