NAIROBI, June 22 – Tourism Minister Najib Balala has expressed optimism that the ministry’s recovery initiatives for the sector would succeed.
Noting that with the increased 26 percent budgetary allocation for the sector combined with prior commitments from the European Union (EU) and the government, Balala said that the Sh1.5 billion required for recovery is now available.
“We now have Sh600 million from the budget, Sh510 million from the EU, Sh300 million from the government and we are awaiting an additional Sh100 million,” Balala said.
He added that the country has embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign to reposition itself as the most secure and ideal destination.
“We are going to have advertisements running on international media like CNN, showing the richness and beauty of our attractive destination,” said the Minister.
Balala stated that the country was looking at achieving more than just recapturing the lost market after the post poll turmoil, but also competing with other major destinations in the world.
“It’s not business as usual. We are going to reposition Kenya as a preferred tourist destination as well as spending most of our resources to tell the world that Kenya is a serious destination.”
The Minister spoke in Nairobi during a function to recognise international tour operators’ efforts in marketing the country abroad.
Agreeing with the Minister, Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Managing Director Dr. Ong\’ong’a Achieng said the increased budgetary allocation was a clear indication that the government was committed to ensure a turn-around of the sector, taking it back to where it was before the post election violence.
Achieng noted that, among other things, the Sh600 million allocated to the marketing body would go a long way to help it accelerate its recovery programmes.
“Considering that the government has demanding issues like the resettlement of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and the looming food shortage, I must admit that Sh600 million is not a small commitment.”
In the first quarter of 2008, the sector collected Sh8 billion against its target of Sh21 billion.
About 20,000 people lost their jobs due to massive cancellations by tourists expected to arrive during that period, when the country was plunged in chaos over a disputed presidential election.
More than 1,500 people were killed and 350,000 others displaced in the fighting.
Balala and Achieng were speaking during a ceremony to mark the culmination of various activities in the last six months, to reassure international tour operators and journalists that Kenya is a safe destination despite the violence experienced in the country in the first two months of the year.
“We’ve been to most of the country’s source markets in the world to reassure our various partners that Kenya is back to business,” Achieng affirmed.
The tour operators have been in the country for the last two weeks and have visited about 21 key destinations.