, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 9 – President Mwai Kibaki has urged Kenyans to embrace peace as they go into the elections, saying a peaceful poll will send the right signals to investors.
President Kibaki said a peaceful and just election was particularly important to the tourism sector as it would boost the country’s position as a preferred destination.
“A peaceful and just election will send the right signals that we are a people tolerant to different shades of opinion and varying political affiliations,” President Kibaki said.
The president was speaking when he officially opened the Sh2 billion Boma Hotel in Nairobi. The hotel is owned by the Kenya Red Cross Society where President Kibaki is the patron.
He commended the leadership of the Kenya Red Cross Society for actively seeking to provide financial sustainability to the society, saying the new hotel will not only supplement the income of the Kenya Red Cross but it will also boost Kenya’s tourism sector.
“As your patron, I heartily commend you for this great initiative. Indeed, profits from this hotel are intended to supplement the society’s income and fund humanitarian activities,” said the president.
In this connection, the Head of State encouraged other non-profit organisations to develop innovative income generating projects in order to secure financial independence.
Noting that the tourism sector holds a lot of potential and promise for both local and international investors, President Kibaki said the government will continue investing heavily in infrastructural development to harness that potential.
The president expressed satisfaction that over the last 10 years the tourism sector has grown tremendously with tourist arrivals almost doubling to about two million visitors while tourism earnings increased fourfold from Sh25 billion to about Sh100 billion.
“This growth has been driven by the robust policies and strategies that we put in place,” the president said.
To revamp the tourism sector, the Head of State said a new Tourism Act that will be instrumental in regulation, development and marketing of tourism has been enacted.
In addition, President Kibaki said the new constitution puts the onus on the different counties to develop local tourism.
Said the president: “It is my hope that once the County Governments are up and running, they will place special emphasis on the development of our vast tourism potential.”
The president emphasised the government’s commitment to developing the tourism sector and challenged both local and international investors to invest in the tourism and hospitality sectors in Kenya.
He pointed out that investments in innovative products are required to deliver the projected tourism volumes of three million tourists and Sh200 billion in tourism earnings per year.
“It is only with such products that we can grow our market share of international tourism,” President Kibaki said.
The president observed that in the last decade concerted efforts have been made to diversify the country’s tourism product portfolio.
Said the president: “We have gone beyond beach and safari tourism by aggressively promoting other products such as eco-tourism, cultural tourism, adventure and conference tourism.”
He singled out the business and conference tourism segment as one area in which the country has made significant gains.
He noted that Kenya is currently recognised as one of the top conference tourism destinations in Africa, saying with this growth new modern and stylish accommodation facilities have come up.
Speaking during the occasion, Tourism Minister Dan Mwazo and his Special Programmes counterpart Esther Murugi supported the establishment of the Boma Hotel, saying it will make available necessary resources for its humanitarian activities.
The two ministers said the Kenya Red Cross Society should not listen to those critical of its entry into the hotel business but should instead establish more hotels to promote tourism and boost its financial base.
The Kenya Red Cross Society chairman Paul Birech reiterated his organisation’s commitment to philanthropic work and assured that all the proceeds from the new hotel will be directed to humanitarian activities.
On his part, Kenya Red Cross Secretary-General Abbas Gullet disclosed that apart from ensuring Kenya Red Cross Society’s financial sustainability, Boma Hotel has also created employment to 500 Kenyans.
Gullet thanked the government for its support to the Kenya Red Cross Society through tax waivers and donating land for the construction of the Boma Hotel.