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World Bank rates Kenya tourism poorly

NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 24 – The World Bank has challenged tourism stakeholders to become more dynamic to boost the country\’s competitiveness as a holiday destination.

According to a World Bank report titled Kenya\’s Tourism: Polishing the Jewel, the country\’s tourism products were fast becoming dull and thus the country looses out to emerging destinations.

Presenting the report, World Bank country director Johannes Zutt said the country\’s main challenge was the shocks the tourism sector experienced in 2008 post-election violence and the global economic recession that have dented growth.

"We have seen the sector go through peaks and rapid declines and lacks the consistency to remain competitive," Mr Zutt said.

According to the report, Kenya has all the trimmings to be an all-year round tourism destination but has been greatly underutilised.

"Kenya has a unique range and has the potential to put together its products in a way its competitors cannot," he said. 

In 2010, the sector contributed Sh1.5 billion to the economy or four percent of GDP and offers direct employment to an estimated 220,000 people.

In 2008, Kenya\’s tourism industry took a heavy beating from the post-election violence following disputed presidential polls in late 2007 as well as the global financial meltdown.

Receiving the report, Tourism Minister Najib Balala said Kenya was an \’old fashion destination\’ that had not moved with the times.

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"There is nothing inspiring……..we are surviving by grace," the minister said citing the modern day tourist wanted more from his experience.

Citing beach tourism as an example (which is also cited by the World Bank), Mr Balala said the countries beach products "were tired and poorly managed."

He said, the sub-sector lacked serious investors willing to develop major hotels and improve the image of the coast.

"It is high time we give incentives to multinational chains who know how to run and manage hotels so that they can invest more," he said.

Mr Balala added there was a disconnect between the organs running tourism saying they were all reading from different scripts.

"The challenge with tourism is that it is not managed by one entity. You have NEMA, local authorities and the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife all having an input," he said.

The report also highlights poor infrastructure development, lack of security in some areas and inadequate incentives for developers as reasons why the country was lagging behind.

The minister said he had scheduled a meeting with the Treasury and Kenya Investment Authority officials to discuss the formulation of an Incentive Code for the sector.

"We need investors to come up and open up new areas and develop new products for tourists," Mr Balala said.

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The tourism sector has been on the path to recovery, recording on average 17 percent monthly growth in tourism arrivals compared to 2007, by far Kenya\’s best performing year.

The sector is projected to attract 1.2 million in the 2010 with earnings estimated at Sh100 billion.

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