Tourism CS Najib Balala (centre) with Ghana’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts Mrs Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare (right) when she paid him a courtesy call at the Kenyan stand in Germany. Looking on is Tourism PS, Fatuma Hirsi Mohamed.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary (CS) Najib Balala has assured investors and tourists abroad that the country’s tourism industry is back on track – registering impressive tourist numbers after a lull of nearly two years.
He said the Government has put in place more incentives to spur growth of tourism industry, including the repair of the Maasai Mara–Narok road to ensure a constant flow of tourists to the Mara. This is in addition to improving security. “Yes we have been bruised as a country, but we are now back,” Balala told a press briefing attended by local and international media in Germany.
This was during the ongoing ITB Fair in Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin) – the world’s leading travel trade show.
Over 42 exhibitors drawn from hotels, airlines and tours lauded the Government’s effort to revamp the sector. The climax of the ITB Fair in Berlin saw hundreds of participants flock to the Kenyan stand to learn more about the recent incentives announced by the Government to aid recovery of the tourism sector. Tour operators displayed some of the very best deals from Kenya.
Mr Balala told the exhibitors that the standard gauge railway which will be operational from June 2017 will reduce the time taken on the road from Mombasa to Nairobi. While encouraging more German tourists to visit Kenya, Mr Balala said, “Kenya is not the Kenya that you knew before, things are changing and changing for the better”.
Other incentives the Government has put in place include the scrapping of the visa fees for children less than 16 years, aimed at promoting family travel to Kenya.
The CS said the charter incentive programme and passenger subsidies had seen the Government waive landing fees for charters with 80 per cent of the passengers terminating at Mombasa and Malindi airports for the next two years.
He said the programme is aimed at recovering lost business from tourist charter aircrafts that used to terminate at Moi International and Malindi airports.
He observed that under the programme, all tourist charter aircrafts with passengers terminating at Mombasa and Malindi airports, will enjoy free landing and a passenger subsidy of $30 (Ksh3,000) per tourist if 80per cent of the passengers on board will terminate in Kenya
“These incentives have been put in place to reward charter operators who choose Kenya as the preferred tourism destination and make long-term commitments on the route guaranteeing us a gradual increase in the number of tourist arrivals,” said Balala.
While acknowledging the fact that Kenya has suffered in the last two years as a result of reduced tourist numbers to Kenya, Balala appealed to Western countries to consider giving accurate and responsible travel advisories against Kenya.
He said while there was no travel advisory currently against Kenya, it was important for Western countries to consider the damage that the advisories have on a country’s economy including loss of jobs and revenue for a country before issuing one. “We had a decline of 40 per cent tourist arrivals in Kenya as a result of the travel advisories. Don’t punish us twice,” noted Balala.
The CS also participated in panel discussions.