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Balala takes up Tourism Ministry mantle

NAIROBI, April 14 – Newly appointed Tourism Minister Najib Balala took over office Monday with a promise to end all unnecessary bureaucracy in the sector.

“I will not be specific at this time because I need to learn the existing bureaucracy. I know in any government or institution there is bureaucracy and if it can be smoothened and fast tracked, then it is a good bureaucracy,” he asserted.

This, Balala said, would enhance the revival of the tourism industry that had been adversely affected following the post election violence in early 2008.

The Minister at the same time pledged to reduce the cost of doing business in the industry, which he termed as frustrating for investors.

He encouraged that he would increase efficiency and market Kenya as a safe tourist destination.

Balala added that the tourism recovery plan would be followed to the letter since the sector is a priority pillar for realising economic superiority through vision 2030.

“I am only the image of the country. I will count on my colleagues in government particularly those in charge of security and infrastructure to work with my Ministry to help bring back tourism,” the Minister appealed.

“I will count on them because they are paramount to the success of the tourism industry.”

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The minister added that there was need to encourage regional and local tourism alongside international tourism to boost the sector: “We will want to see the facilities offered reasonable enough so that Kenyans and other African countries can come in.”

He at the same time called for more budgetary allocation to support the revival of tourism, which requires about Sh1.5 billion for its recovery in the next one year.

Later in the day, Balala had lunch with a group of over 200 international travel and lifestyle journalists drawn from Europe, Asia, America and Africa with the aim of launching Kenya’s tourism Publicity campaign.

The initiative is expected to endorse the country as a premier destination and generate high level interest through positive international media coverage that would instil confidence in the consumer, considering the negative publicity the destination received as a result of the post poll riots.

While responding to questions from the group the Minister committed to doing everything possible to ensure the industry was back where it was before the chaos.

Speaking to Capital Business, a journalist from ABC Magazine in Spain Alfonso Armada said the general feeling among the group was that Kenya was a peaceful destination unlike what had been portrayed in the international media.

“Most of us are going back to file positive stories and will even come back on our own accord,” Armada added.

His only regret was that the group’s four-day tour was not enough to generate an accurate objective opinion of Kenya as a tourist destination.

They were expected to leave Kenya on Monday evening after a 16-destination itinerary intended to showcase the country’s unique attractions in Western Kenya, Central, North Rift, Maasai Mara and the Coast among others.

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