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Kenya eyes Iranian tourists

NAIROBI, August 13 – Kenya is now focusing on Iran as its new tourism market in a bid to tap into the country’s 80 million plus population.

Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary Rebecca Nabutola said her ministry would be making proposals to the 5th Kenya – Iran Joint Commission on how best to tap into this emerging tourism market.

“Even if we were to attract just 10 percent of this market, we would have 8 million visitors, which is not a number you can ignore,” Nabutola said.

Last year, the Ministry managed to bring in 49 tour operators from Iran as a marketing initiative, which paid off with increased bookings, but did not materialise due to the violence that rocked the country at the start of the year.

“However that has passed and now we are hoping to renew the markets interest in this forum through bilateral agreements with the Iranian government,” Nabutola said.

Iran usually celebrates its New Year in March and citizens travel more during that particular period.

While admitting that currently tourist numbers from the destination are still minimal, Nabutola was emphatic on the need for the country to aggressively market itself in this hugely untapped market.

Previously Iran was under the “referral” visa, which made it quite difficult and cumbersome for tourists from the destination to visit Kenya.

“It would take a tourist interested in visiting the country up to three months to either receive a visa or a response thus discouraging him or her from visiting the country,” she explained.

However the regime was lifted four years ago and about a year later the country started to market itself in Iran as a tourist destination of choice.

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Nabutola described the Iranians as high-end tourists, who are particularly interested in cultural tourism, but who are quite dynamic in their choice of activity and would very well fit into the wide range of products being offered in the country.

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