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Kenya, SAfrica in tourism pact

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 18 – The Kenyan and South African governments have entered into a partnership that will see the two countries collaborate in the promotion of the tourism sector.

Tourism Minister Najib Balala on Tuesday signed a bilateral agreement with his visiting South African counterpart Marthinus Van Schalkwyk that will enable the two countries cooperate in strategic areas like sharing data and increasing investments in the sector.

“We might be seen to have the same product but the experience is different. The Kenyan safari experience is definitely different from that of South Africa. But there are things that we can learn from each other,” he said during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties.

Mr Van Schalkwyk said it was wrong and outdated for the two countries to remain in seeming rivalry.

“Yes we will always be competitors but we must understand what kind of competitors we are. Not competitors to undermine each other but competitors to enable each other to perform better and raise standards,” Mr Van Schalkwyk said.

Kenya attracts about 20 percent of international arrivals from the African region whereas South Africa gets 70 percent.

Mr Balala said the country is also looking forward to learning from SA on how to advance its domestic and conference tourism particularly at a time when its preparing to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The MOU also provides opportunities to develop sustainable tourism and cooperation in the development of strategies to address challenges such as climate change, the economic downturn and the negative image that the African continent suffers.

“We should strive to replace the negative perception of Africa as a continent ravaged by drought, disease, insecurity and war with a positive image of richness in natural and cultural heritage,” Mr Balala added.

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The two countries are core markets for each other as demonstrated by the number of visitors that each receives annually. For instance, Kenya receives about 30,000 tourists every year from South Africa out of which four percent arrive by air.

Meanwhile, the South African minister said they’ve doubled the space where Kenya will exhibit its products and services at the INDABA Tourism Fair next year.

Kenya is the only country outside the Southern African Development Community that is allowed to participate in the fair which provides a popular marketing platform for the exhibitors.

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