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Single visa set to boost EA tourism – Uhuru

TOURISM-MARANAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 18 – The East African region is set to attract an increasing number of tourists following proposals to have a joint tourist visa.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya is working with its neighbours to come up with a single visa that will enable tourists to visit all the five East African Community member states.

“We are also working on a joint marketing strategy so that as we sell Kenya as a tourist destination, we will also be selling all the attractions that the region has to offer,” President Kenyatta said.

The President underscored the importance of tourism, saying it generates around 12pc of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product and accounts for about 9pc of the country’s total formal employment.

He said his administration is focused on enhancing the country’s competitiveness in the sector to increase the number of tourists visiting Kenya every year.

“Specifically, we have committed to promote Kenya as a destination, rather than a stop-over, and to attract at least three million tourists annually,” he said.

President Kenyatta called for additional investment in hotel and other tourism-related infrastructure as the Government scales up interconnectivity through port, rail, and road infrastructure.

He singled out the ongoing expansion of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the opening of the expanded Kisumu Airport as some of the initiatives to increase the country’s capacity to receive more visitors.

“Airstrips in our major safari destinations have also been refurbished. As a result, the tourists will soon be able to traverse Magical Kenya with ease and in a manner that enables them to optimize their safari experience,” he said.

He assured the Kenya tourism Board of increased budgetary allocation to enable it to promote a diversified range of domestic destinations.

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President Kenyatta also said his administration has put in place measures to counter terrorism and other security threats.

He said the Government is vigilant and has embarked on heavy investment in security to ensure the safety of Kenyans and tourists.

“We are vigilant and are effectively countering all security threats to keep Kenya safe. We are investing heavily in our security to protect the whole country,” he said.

President Kenyatta said the Government will continue to mobilise international support to fight terrorism. He urged international partners to desist from issuing travel advisories which compounded the negative impact of terrorism.

To protect the country’s wildlife, the President said intensive lobbying is ongoing to stop the trade in poached animal products including ivory and rhino horns. He said the illegal trade was decimating wildlife populations and compromising the region’s competitive advantage.

“We will complement this effort by increasing the capacity of the Kenya Wildlife Services to effectively curb poaching through intensified and focused investment in equipment, personnel and specialized intelligence,” he said.

The President spoke on Friday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre when he opened the 3rd edition of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo.

More than 150 companies from all parts of the world were represented at the tourism exposition.

Speaking during the occasion, East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie said the expo was an important platform to promote the country’s tourism sector.

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“It enables us to build partnerships that are instrumental to our growth as spelt out in our Vision 2030. It is both an exposition of opportunities and an interaction of possibilities for those who have attended,” Kandie said.

On his part, Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa said the expo is meant to showcase Kenya as a tourism destination.

Ndegwa says over 100 tourism marketing companies from the world are in the country to sample tourism destinations in the country in bid to sell Kenya as a tourism destination to their clients.

He said the expo will also hold a seminar for the companies on various issues in the tourism sector.

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