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Balala pushes for more funding

NAIROBI, September 9 – The Tourism Ministry urgently requires Sh1 billion for a campaign to market Kenya overseas.

Cabinet Minister Najib Balala has however said that the figure is still far below the ideal budgetary allocation he has previously sought for successful re-branding of the country as a preferred tourist destination.

He told Capital business in an interview that tourism was a key pillar of the economy, contributing at least 12 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

“Tourism contributes Sh65b to the economy and these are the resources that are used to fund free education, eradicate poverty, build roads and ensure security for our people,” he said.

He pointed out that previously, marketing had been targeted at overseas tour operators and other partners but said the campaign now needed to target consumers.

“We need to position Kenya right.  We need to re-brand Kenya.   It’s not just about tourism.  It is about commerce, tourism, agriculture; it’s about the people, the landscape,” he said and added that there was already a proposal to plough back a percentage of tourism earnings into marketing.

“I think we need to be given 10 percent of what we generate as a marketing fund.  This amounts to Sh6.5 billion.   Unfortunately we are given Sh400 million which is a joke.  If you want to compete with the world, you should invest more in marketing,” said Balala.

Balala disclosed that an advertising campaign was being rolled out in Europe in the next one month.  “We have got money from the European Union which is conditional.  It’s specific for a global campaign on the Cable News Network (CNN) and other international media.  (An advertisement on) CNN should be on air in October.  The commercials are being put in place and hopefully will be aired over the next 12 months,” he said.

He added that it was necessary to target specific markets to identify appropriate mode of communication and advertisement.

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“We should market ourselves to consumers and not only to the trade.  Consumer marketing is the answer for Kenya but it is very costly.  That’s why I require if not 10 then at least five percent of tourism revenues for marketing.”

He said that he had discussed the funding requirements with President Mwai Kibaki who recently attended talks with industry players while on a tour of the coastal region.  “He has, in principle, accepted the proposal.  We are waiting for the cheque to follow.  We have also written a paper for discussion in the Cabinet which is ready,” he said.

The minister said that he was keen to see the enactment of legislation that would facilitate electronic payments.  “At the moment, tourists make their bookings through overseas tour operators who retain a percentage of the revenue since we don’t have the e-payment gateway.”

Balala also said he was working on a new Bill to reform parastatals that fall under his ministry to ensure they are profitable.  “I expect us to create an Endowment Fund from the revenue these parastatals generate that can be used to supplement government funding in future,” he said.

Among other changes expected by the end of the year is the re-classification of all hotels and resorts.  “At the moment, we are in talks with the Ecole Hotel School in Lausanne (Switzerland) to help us develop standards of classification.  After that we are going to source an independent authority to conduct the classification.”

He said as a result, some hotels and resorts would have their classification downgrade or upgraded.

The minister has in the meantime played down concerns from hotels that the emergence of villas and cottages could drive them out of business. 

He said that beach tourism had become diverse the world over and advised the hotels to instead look at new ways of making their products attractive.

He suggested a review of hotel entertainment programmes in addition to the refurbishment of rooms to become more spacious in line with other top world destinations.

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