NAIROBI, November 27- Spain and Kenya have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in the areas of tourism promotion, tourism information sharing and technical assistance on tourism training.
The agreement that was signed in Nairobi on Thursday comes after Tourism Minister Najib Balala\’s recent visit to Spain to re-assure potential tourists, after the post election violence that gripped the country early this year.
While in Spain, Balala held a meeting with the country’s Secretary of State for Tourism Joan Mesquida on how to improve co-operation in tourism between Kenya and Spain.
“Mr Mesquidas visit today is a testimony that Spain and Kenya are ready to work together to promote development of tourism between our two countries,” Mr Balala said.
Spain further committed Sh1 million to assist in the funding of the Lamu festival which begins on Friday.
“We are happy to fund this festival because as you know there is a cultural connection between Lamu residents and us,” Mr Mesquida noted.
Though Spain has been participating in the festival in the last eight years this is the second time that they are funding the event.
Mr Balala said the Spanish market was important to Kenyans because it was a large economy with a population with significant disposable income.
“Spain is the eighth largest economy in the world and has a wealth of experience on tourism especially on the management of beach tourism – a key product in our country too,” Mr Balala said.
Currently Kenya receives about 15,000 tourists from Spain while the Spanish market currently has about 47 operators offering the Kenyan tourism product.
Mr Balala revealed his ministry was pursuing strategies aimed at improving direct air accessibility between Kenya and Spain through direct schedule flights and charter flights.
“Kenya is negotiating with travel trade for a joint marketing strategy and investing in direct consumer advertisements, retail promotions and publicity campaigns,” he said.
“We recognise that language barrier remains a significant hindrance to the full exploitation of our tourism markets but Spain is considering ways of increasing usage of Spanish in Kenya through the International Spanish School.
Mr Mesquidas is scheduled to be the guest of honour at the annual Lamu Cultural festival.
Lamu was in 2001 declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO thus enhancing the country’s profile as a cultural tourism destination.