YOKOHAMA, May 29 – President Mwai Kibaki spearheaded an aggressive campaign for Kenya’s tourism sector at a conference in Japan on Thursday and called for action to introduce direct flights between the two countries.
President Kibaki, addressing the Kenya Tourism symposium in Yokohama, said tourism provides an opportunity for strengthening friendship ties, building bridges and creating understanding between individuals, communities and nations of the world.
The Head of State said the government had created an enabling environment including guaranteed security for tourists, to attract more visitors to the country.
“Thousands of Japanese experts who have worked in various parts of the country offer the best testimony of the hospitality of the Kenyan people,” President Kibaki said, adding that his country was endowed with rich varied tourism attractions.
He said Kenya is a country of diversity with enormous tourist resources ranging from wildlife to the unique picturesque landscape.
“The diverse cultures coupled with hospitable people make our country a truly unequalled tourist attraction,” the President said.
On environmental conservation, the Head of State said the Government places eco-tourism as one of the priorities in tourism promotion.
“As a result of the tough and non-compromising wildlife protection policies implemented by successive Governments, Kenya has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of endangered animal species,” President Kibaki said, emphasising that tourism has over the years contributed immensely to economic growth and employment creation.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, while opening the TICAD Summit, pledged his government’s commitment to double its overseas development assistance to Africa and assist in doubling foreign direct investment from the private sector.
During the TICAD IV summit, a Yokohama declaration was passed outlining a cool earth partnership that gives serious attention to environment protection, climate change and promoting tourism in the continent.
To help in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, President Kibaki stated that the government of Japan had promised to assist in health, education and water provision as a priority.
“Under this program the government of Japan will dispatch water security action teams to countries to conserve water resources, construct 1,000 primary schools, train 100,000 teachers in Mathematics and Sciences and 100,000 health workers in the next five years all over Africa.”
The Head of State, while commending the Ministry of Tourism and Kenya Tourist Board for organising the symposium, urged them to mitigate challenges and opportunities that would woo Japanese tourists to visit Kenya.
“Tourism is a major pillar towards the realisation of Kenya’s vision 2030. It is for this reason that tourism features highly as a vehicle for achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” the President said.
He appealed to the international community to change the negative perspective of Kenya, and further mentioned that upgrading the Mombasa port would give tourists a link to any part of the world.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Cabinet Ministers Najib Balala and William Ruto and senior Kenya Tourist Board officials attended the function.