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Kenya turns to America for tourism

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 – American celebrities may be the next front for marketing Kenya’s tourism in America.
This follows a meeting between Tourism Minister Najib Balala and the President of Hollywood-based Legacy Entertainment, Steven Moore in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The two discussed the possibility of having American Hollywood celebrities playing a pivotal role in promoting Kenya as a tourist destination.

Mr Balala, who spoke while in the US, said this would entail photographing the artistes in Kenya for use on American billboards, posters, calendars and television commercials.

“We have agreed with Mr Moore that Legacy Entertainment will develop different options for our consideration. These include taking advantage of the launch of direct flights from the US to Kenya by Delta Airlines, expected in June this year,” said Mr Balala.

He said Mr Moore had promised to approach some of the celebrities under his stable to consider travelling to Kenya via Delta Airlines for photo shoots, which would then be used to promote Kenya’s tourism products in Hollywood and the rest of the US.

Legacy Entertainment participates in more than 300 feature films and most major prime time television series each year. It also organises celebrity golf events, movie promotions and movie premiers; and major Hollywood Award Gift Bags such as The Emmys.

Mr Moore pointed out that by using the marketing magic of Hollywood the company reaches wide audiences in a more cost effective means of marketing products and services including tourism.

Mr Balala is in the US on a marketing campaign aimed at hyping up the American interest, at a time when the urge to travel to Africa and especially Kenya has never been higher given the historic win by US President-elect Barack Obama, who is of Kenyan heritage.

During scheduled interviews with members of the Association for the Promotion of Tourism in Africa (APTA), the Minister said that the government was laying down the requisite infrastructure at Kogelo, the birthplace of Obama’s father to enable the region and entire country to benefit from the Obama effect.

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He said this development would be established in a way that does not compromise the local culture and natural environment of the area.

Among the people that the Minister for Tourism met in Los Angeles is Ms Shabazz, an ambassador-at-large of the International Cultural Affairs and Development Project for Belize. Ms. Shabazz has been working closely with the Kenyan consulate in LA as a friend of Kenya focusing on promoting cultural ties between African-Americans and Africa. 

In her discussion with the Minister, Ms. Shabazz noted that the disposable income of the African-Americans especially in Los Angeles had grown significantly over the years, owing to the vibrant entertainment industry.

“African-Americans are looking for a real experience involving interactions with local communities in Africa which can give them a story to tell for years,” said Ms Shabazz.

She observed that this segment provides an excellent market that could be tapped through enticing packages.

Mr Balala’s marketing programme in the US will cover Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington DC and New York where he is meeting with the travel trade and the media.

In Atlanta, the Minister is scheduled to meet with Delta Airlines and other key tour operators to discuss issues related to increasing tourist flows from the US, ahead of the launch of direct flights by the airline in June this year.

Kenya attracted  93,109 visitors from America in 2007 but the figure went down by 28 percent in 2008.

The Ministry of Tourism is hoping to grow this market by 10 to 15 percent, riding on the Obama wave, according to Mr Balala.     

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