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New push to fete tourism beacons

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 22 – As the tourism sector continues on a recovery path, two organisations have jointly launched an initiative that aims to recognise institutions that have excelled in offering quality services and contributed to the industry\’s growth.

The Kenya Tourism Federation and the Kenya Tourist Board hope to enhance competition in the industry which would in turn enable it to realise its full potential.

"It will also be an opportunity to reinforce the central role that the sector has in the national development of the country more so in achieving the grand objectives as set out in Vision 2030," said the federation\’s chairperson Lucy Karume.

The intention of the Kenya Tourist Awards (KETA) is not only to bring the tourism fraternity together but also recognise the contribution that has been made by players offering other services besides the traditional beaches and wildlife.

Slated for June 23, the gala ceremony will see winners in seven categories such as the \’best accommodation facility,\’ \’best entertainment facility,\’ \’best tourism attraction,\’ and \’best travel agency,\’ feted.

Tour operators including those with less than 10 employees, travel agencies and entertainment spots, which have in the past not been looked at as an integral part of the tourism industry, will also get recognition.

The sector returned on the growth trajectory in 2009 after the country\’s image was badly dented following the violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential election.

Benchmarked on the performance of 2007 when the country raked in Sh65 billion and which was billed to be the best year for tourism, it is clear that the market has fully picked up going by 2010 results that showed a 17.9 percent rise in earnings to Sh73.6 billion.

Although a good performance, the sector failed to achieve the target of Sh100 billion in earnings which points to the need to continue with the aggressive marketing of Kenya as a world class tourism destination.

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KTB Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa reiterated the need to scale up the marketing budget but also called on politicians to tone down their bickering so as not to scare potential visitors away.

At the same time, the tourism bodies have acknowledged the role that the media plays in exposing Kenya as a tourist destination and therefore included a media category in the awards to recognise journalists that have excelled in selling the tourism story.

"Without the media, KTB\’s role as a marketing agency would not be fully realised," said Mr Ndegwa of the awards that will fete journalists in various categories.

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