The 6th Magical Kenya expo kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday setting the stage for a promising future for the country’s tourism sector. The sector recorded a 15 percent growth from last year as the government looks to further boost its performance.
Under the theme Tourism for all; Explore endless Travel possibilities, this year’s edition attracted over 140 hosted buyers with over 35 coming from Kenya’s key source markets in Europe, Asia, Americas, Africa and the Middle East.
According to Cabinet Secretary of Tourism, Najib Balala, Kenya is eyeing a target of 3 million tourists per year in the near future from the current 1 million. The United States currently tops the list of tourist arrivals in Kenya followed by the United Kingdom and Germany. However, arrivals have dropped from the 1.8 million in 2011 to 1.1 million in 2016.
The drop has been attributed to the travel advisories issued by European countries in the wake of increased terror attacks in the country.
To achieve this target, the country is eyeing a partnership with neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda on joint marketing. Honourable Balala indicated that “After three days of deliberations, we have agreed to market the region as one. Starting November, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda will be marketing themselves with one stand.”
Currently, the three nations use The East Africa Tourist Visa which allows travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with the same multiple entry visa. The Visa costs only 100 US Dollars.
Before the Tourist Visa was launched by the so-called coalition of the willing(COW) in 2014, tourists required separate visas for each country visited, a process that would cost 200 dollars more and discouraged visitors from extending their travel beyond the national borders of the country they were in.
Furthermore, Plans are underway for Kenya to open its skies to Qatar and UAE commercial flights to help boost tourism with the Middle East nations.
On the challenges that threaten to cripple the sector Hon. Balala said that the Standard Gauge Railway will go through Nairobi national park despite vehement protests from environmentalists. He, however, insisted that precautionary steps will be initiated to ensure that animals are not disturbed. The SGR will be elevated as it is in the country’s Tsavo National Park.
The country’s Cabinet Secretary for tourism Najib Balala also warned that the looming Kenya airways strike would be a huge drawback to the tourism sector but indicated that together with Cabinet Secretary for Transport James Macharia, they are close to reaching an amicable solution to the matter.
By Brian Kithinji
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