NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 2 – “Why is Turkey, Bali and Egypt doing much better in terms of tourism when they too have faced similar security challenges as those that Kenya has faced?” Najib Balala posed to an audience of hundreds during the ongoing Tourism, Innovation and Change Forum in Nairobi.
“Egypt, a country that has had more insecurity problems than Kenya has been attracting 13 million tourists a year. Zimbabwe, a country whose tourism attractions may not match those of Kenya is also getting up to two million tourists per day, why not Kenya?”
Lack of innovativeness, conservative methods of doing things and a limited experience offering were some of the issues Balala said were stopping the sector from flourishing.
“Nairobi hoteliers still tell their tourists to not go out and explore Nairobi since it is dangerous. A ploy they use so that these tourists do not go and spend money elsewhere.”
CS Balala also called out to hoteliers who have refused to catch up with modern trends, such as failure of providing public Wi-Fi in their travel vehicles, offering the same type of food year in year out and providing the same kind of entertainment over and over again.
“We may increase room capacity as much as we would like to, but until we enrich the kind of experience we offer, we will not gain our goal.”
Balala urged stakeholders to meet their end of the bargain, even as the government works on meeting its own.
To that end, Balala said Kenya will start to issue 96 hours transit visas for transit passengers on Kenya Airways, up from the current 36 hours; a move intended to market Kenya.
He also said the government would look into ways of using famous national figures such as Oscar award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, noble laureate the late Professor Wangari Maathai and two-time Olympic Champion and World record holder David Rudisha to market Kenya.
Balala however acknowledged the successes that his ministry has been able to achieve since it set out to recover an industry that was once the country’s best performer.
“We have enacted substantial duty exemptions for upgrades and refurbishments. We have also implemented wide-ranging fiscal incentives to encourage investment in the sector,” he said.
As at the end of 2016, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reported that earnings from the sector improved to record a 17.8 percent from Sh84.6 billion in 2015 to Sh99.7 billion in 2016, the first time since 2012.
The rebound was partly linked to improved security and successful high profile conferences hosted in the country.
Additionally, the sector was noted to have benefited from aggressive marketing in the domestic and international markets.