NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 4 – The government has set aside Sh100 million to relocate small-scale businesses operating on Kenyan beaches.
Tourism Minister Najib Balala said authorities planned to lock out hawkers and vendors from the beaches arguing that they pose a security threat to tourists and hotels.
Speaking during the official opening of the Sankara Hotel in Nairobi on Thursday, Mr Balala said that hawking had significantly reduced the market value attached to Kenyan beaches leading to the low numbers of tourists attracted by beach holidays.
"Unfortunately the level that our beaches draw as a tourist destination is declining. In fact compared to the safari circuit, the rating has declined by 20 percent. This can be mainly attributed to beach trading, harassment, jua kali artisans and people selling second hand clothes on the beaches," he claimed.
Mr Balala further explained that the money would be used to help traders secure their livelihood once the government effected the ban on beach-hawking.
He also expressed confidence that the tourism industry in the country would achieve its growth targets by the year 2012.
"For the first six months of 2012, the tourism sector stood at Sh49 billion (tourism earnings) and projected to hit the Sh100 billion by the end of the year. The sector is recording an average growth of 17 percent per month on international arrivals and this is expected to grow further by the end of the year," he said.
The Tourism minister further called on the Finance ministry to increase the budgetary allocation for tourist marketing. He argued that the current financial provision was not enough to aggressively promote the country\’s image.
"What we have is meagre compared to what our competitors set aside. For example Egypt gives out Sh8.01 billion for marketing while South Africa gives out Sh5.6 billion. Kenya on the other hand only allocates Sh640,800," he said.
Mr Balala added that the government would begin classifying hotels from December 1 and had already appointed an authority that would be charged with the said assignment.
The classification will start with hotels in Nairobi before going down to the coast region (particularly Mombasa and Maasai Mara) followed by the rest of the country. The exercise is aimed at ensuring that the country\’s hotel industry is at par with the standards of the world.
"It is important to keep standards. We cannot have a five-star in Kenya but then a tour operator overseas sells it as a three-star. Some of the hotels in Nairobi are wanting and those hotels that are not giving us service will be downgraded," he explained.
He also asked private players to invest in tourism: "Tourism in Kenya is coming back. We suffered the post election violence together with the effects of the global crunch and we have been carrying out extensive recovery operations in various corners of the world."
Prime Minister Raila Odinga who officially opened the Sankara hotel asked the industry\’s players to increase their accommodation facilities for the country to hold the large tourist numbers that had been projected.
He also expressed confidence in the growth of the tourism sector saying it was one of the key drivers of the country\’s economy.
"We want to be among the top 10 tourist destination countries in the world by the year 2030 so we must slowly increase our bed capacity," he said.