NAIROBI, August 17 – President Mwai Kibaki on Sunday took time off from his busy schedule to unwind at the Mara Game Reserve.
In a day long tour that was seen as a culmination of government’s concerted efforts to boost the country’s image and raise tourism credentials, the Head of State made himself at home in the wilderness.
His presence at the 7th Wonder of the World sent a strong message to both local and international tourist that ‘Kenya was the place to be’.
At the Maasai Mara Serena Lodge, the President assured the world that Kenya was safe for tourists to visit.
He also assured the world that the country had moved on and was well past the events that characterised early this year.
The tourism industry took an unprecedented plunge in the first of quarter of this year after the disputed presidential election turned violent, leading to massive cancellations of tourists’ bookings.
The President who was accompanied by members of his family took a game drive in the vast Mara Game Reserve that climaxed at the banks of Mara River where he took lunch with Cabinet Ministers, current and former Members of Parliament from the Maasai region and senior government officials.
The visit was viewed as vital boost to the sector, which for past few years had been the leading foreign exchange earner.
Also in the trip Tourism Minister Najib Balala thanked President Kibaki for setting an example of a domestic tourist and particularly his commitment to the full recovery of the tourism sector and Kenya’s economy in general.
Balala said that massive campaigns launched by the government locally and internationally had started to bear good fruits adding that since May this year the tourism sector had made a strong comeback that has seen a tremendous number of visitors come into the country.
Meanwhile Kenya Tourism Board wants the government to invest more tourism marketing if it’s to reap maximum benefits from the trade.
The Board’s Corporate Affairs Manager Rose Kwena said currently marketing of the country’s tourism product is under- funded.
“The kind of budgets we allocate to tourism marketing is really a joke compared to our competitors on the global platform,” Kwena said.
“We need to enhance those budgets so that we are able to compete on equal footing with our competitors because we do have a very superior product compared to them yet people get to hear more about them than us.”
Kwena said the country requires at least Sh2 billion to effectively market the destination.
This financial year the government set aside Sh600 million for marketing and is expecting another similar amount for global advertising from the European Union.
However Tourism minister Najib Balala has in the recent past pledged to seek more funds from the government to increase the marketing budget.