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Coast tourists increase by 30pc, PM says

NAIROBI, August 27- The number of tourists visiting the Coastal region has risen by 30 percent since the return to normalcy following the post-election turmoil, government officials have said.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Wednesday that although the region was one of the areas that bore the brunt of the violence, it had recovered and was now receiving a high number of visitors.

“The leadership and the Tourism Ministry and (Kenya Tourist) Board are expending immense energy to entice tourists back (into the country) and our efforts seem to be paying off,” beamed Odinga.

The sector is the biggest contributor to the exchequer, with tourism earnings hitting Sh65 billion in 2007.

Speaking during the re-opening of the newly refurbished Mombasa Continental Resort, Raila attributed the growth to the government’s rejuvenated efforts of promoting the country as a world class tourist destination.

Speaking at the same function, President Mwai Kibaki said his government was focused towards attracting high-end tourists and as such would set up facilities that provide them corresponding standards.

Towards this end, the President said they were mulling over the possibility of establishing a tourism academy at the Coast to enhance the country’s training capacity.

He reiterated that Kenya was a safe tourist destination.

“We have already embarked on a vigorous campaign to boost our country’s image aboard. We want to reassure all potential tourists that Kenya is safe,” he added.

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On that note, the Head of State appealed to the media to report objectively.

“I want to appeal to the press, to avoid the temptation of focusing too much on trivialities at the expense of the greater good,” he added.

He said millions of shillings had been set aside for improvement of the road network in the coastal region.

He cited the Mombasa-Kilifi-Malindi road that had been redone by the government at a cost of more than Sh1 billion while the Mariakani-Kilifi road was currently being tarmacked at a cost of about Sh2.5 billion.

“Furthermore, over Sh340 million was used to improve Likoni-Ukunda road.  We have truly scored major strides in the roads sector over the past five years,” he added.

The Mombasa Continental Resort was renovated at a cost of Sh750 million and transforming it into a first-class tourist resort, an investment that President Kibaki said demonstrated the investors’ confidence in the economy.

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