2015/16 Yearbook Tourism

Tourism

Aggressive government efforts to revive tourism brought a glimmer of hope to the economy despite a three-year sustained downturn.  The industry showed remarkable resilience in the face travel advisories, insecurity and health–related scares due to Ebola in West Africa and economic slowdown in Europe, one of Kenya’s key source markets. 

Obama homecoming

Kenya remained resilient and rode on crest of successful visits which thrust it in global spotlight, notably that of the 44th United States President Barack Obama, who was accompanied by more than 3,000 investors during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). The vote of confidence by President Obama and endorsement by the United Nations helped Kenya’s efforts in wooing back global tourists.

The country also leveraged on other high profile visits by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.  These tours improved Kenya’s image as well as gave confidence to international tour operators and chartered airlines that the country is a safe holiday destination.

Related to these were international events, which reaffirmed Kenya’s safety and put the country on a recovery trajectory. This helped the country to stamp its feet as a reputable destination for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE). This is an ‘events type’ of tourism in which large groups, usually planned well in advance, are brought together for a particular purpose.

Hope for a quick turnaround was injected into the beleaguered tourism industry when Britain, a key tourism source market, downgraded travel advisories against Kenya.

Once again, tourism was on the upswing after the lifting of advisories. The security situation tremendously improved with US and Britain playing a frontline role in the war on terror by providing intelligence and training for Kenyan counter-terrorism agents.

A steady stream of major high-profile visits to Kenya, including His Holiness Pope Francis’ maiden pastoral visit to Africa, gave the country an opportunity to showcase its Sunday best as a safari and beach holiday destination.

This was preceded earlier in the year by, among other high profile visitors, primatologist and environmentalist Jane Goodall, author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, former American President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, Chinese Prime Minister Li, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and homecoming by Hollywood actress Lupita Nyong’o.

Further, the inaugural direct flight from China to Kenya by the China Southern Airlines as well as anticipated return of German airline Lufthansa after an 18-month absence re-awakened the industry.

The high-profile visits and conferences provided excellent opportunities to make Kenyan tourism attractions more visible in key source markets, portraying the country as a safe and highly desirous destination for both adventure and mainstream visitors.

Sister Irene Stefani beatification

The beatification of Sister Irene Stefani in Nyeri, a missionary nun locally known as Nyaatha who died in 1930 while working in the region, signalled Kenya’s potential in religious and pilgrimage tourism. The event made history as the first beatification in Africa since Pope Benedict XVI revised the ceremony’s traditions in 2005.

Beatification is recognition by the Catholic Church that a dead person is blessed and worthy to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name. This marked the second beatification on African soil after the one conducted in the former Zaire (now DRC) on August 15, 1985, by Pope John Paul II. The historic event brought together thousands of pilgrims from across the world.

The Ministry of East African Affairs Commerce and Tourism initiated discussions on the possibility of twining Nyeri County and Anfo Province in Italy where Sr Irene “Nyaatha” was born, paving the way for pilgrimage tourism between Kenya and Italy.

International meetings

Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) continued to fly the industry flag high despite the backdrop of the external factors that hit Kenya’s tourism fortunes.

Kenya reaped big from hosting the World Public Relations Conference, the Africa Travel Association’s 40th Annual World Congress, Africa First Ladies Conference on Cancer, 10th World Trade Organisation Ministerial   Conference, East Africa Tourism Development Forum under auspices of theUnited Nations World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO), the Sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the 46th Commonwealth Parliamentarians Conference and the East Africa region Pan-Africa, among many international conferences.

Kenya was also honoured to host the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) after the government talked Gambia out of bidding. This marked the first time that the TICAD conference was being held in Africa.

The successful hosting of these events gave the country the much-needed global publicity and extra exposure among the world’s travel fraternity.

World’s environmental capital

Kenya re-affirmed its position as the environmental capital of the world by hosting the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and 112 ministers representing various countries at the first United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) held at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi.

The forum attracted over 1200 participants from over 162 UN member states. The high level forum affirmed Kenya’s standing as a choice destination and the home of the UNEA, headquartered in Gigiri, Nairobi, upgraded to full UN agency status having previously been UNEP.

The lifting of travel advisories, winning of a string of international awards, high-profile visits, introduction of new flights and resumption of others, all served to show that the tourism recovery efforts were yielding fruit.

One of Europe’s leading tour operators, Thomas Cook, signed contracts with Coast beach resorts, signaling a rebound in the tourism industry. The move came less than a month after three other major British tour operators, Kuoni, Somak and First Choice, announced their intention to start booking Kenyan beach resorts, many of which were suspended early the previous year due to terrorist fears in Coast. The three took decision to resume holidays to the Kenyan coast following a change of advice from the UK Government’s Foreign Office, which indicated that it was no longer dangerous to visit hotels north and south of Mombasa. Tour operators welcomed steps the Kenyan government had taken to make the coast safer for tourists. These included a more visible security presence and measures taken to involve local curio sellers and other small scale operators in protecting the tourism trade.

The run-up to President Obama’s visit breathed a new life in the battered sector, withthe Global Entrepreneurship Summit proving that Kenya had come of age in conference tourism and business meetings. The US President pledge to support fight against terrorism as well as lifting of travel advisories and resumption of charter flights and three UK tour companies’ bookings signaled an industry on a roll.

Awards galore

The Kenyan tourism industry received a major boost after key attractions and hotels scooped top global awards during the 22nd annual World Travel Awards Africa and Indian Ocean gala, also known as ‘the Oscars of the travel industry’.

Diani Beach, the Kenya Tourism Board, the Maasai Mara and Kenya Airways were voted as the best on the continent during the World Travel Awards while Kilifi and Kwale counties basked in the glory of hosting six top hotels in Kenya, according to the 2015 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. TripAdvisor is an American website providing reviews of web-related content and includes interactive travel forums.

In addition, Mombasa was voted as the best cruise port in Africa, ahead of Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. This was the port’s first time to scoop a global award despite lacking a terminal where cruise ships can dock.

Kenya was also ranked third best safari destination in Africa, after Tanzania and Botswana, by SafariBookings, a Netherlands travel website. At the same time, the Maasai Mara National Reserve was voted eighth overall among the top 50 best safari parks in Africa.

International tourists described the Mara as ‘classic for safari’, having the Big Five, rare rhino, big cats and the wildebeest migration.

Other Kenyan parks which appeared among the top 50 included Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which was 16th, Samburu National Reserve at 25th and Tsavo West National Park at position 26.

Two Kenyan camps were among 14 lodges from around the world that joined the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the world.

Mara Plains Camp situated at Olare Motorogi in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and Ol Donyo Lodge on the slopes of Chyulu Hills National Park joined the list of prestigious collection of boutique hotels in remarkable destinations across the globe.

International Tourism Bourse

The Kenyan stand was ranked the second best country in Africa, after Rwanda, for showcasing tourism products during the 2015 International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin, Germany.

Authentic safari and sustainable tourism concepts placed the Kenyan exhibition stand at position six in the world. KTB was also ranked the third best exhibition stand in the 2015 INDABA tourism exhibition in Durban, South Africa.

All these achievements had a feel-good effect, validating the touting of Kenya as the gateway to Africa and the original home of the safari.

Recovery efforts

The Government engaged various strategies to reverse the dwindling tourist numbers. A Taskforce on Tourism Recovery, whose members included public and private sector as well as technical advisers, was set up. The 17-member task force, headed by Ms Lucy Karume, looked into issues facing tourism and recommended various ways of turning around the industry’s fortunes.

As a follow-up, an inter-ministerial Cabinet sub-committee chaired by the President was set up to oversee the implementation of the Task Force Report. The committee was to fast-track recovery efforts in the short and long term as well as address cross-cutting issues.

The task force found that the insecurity-related events of 2012 to 2014 found an already vulnerable industry arising from low investments in product revamp, lack of enforcement of standards, poor tourism infrastructure and over-reliance on a few tourism products, namely beach and safari. Therefore, the task force focused recommending recovery measures aimed at addressing the immediate causes for the decline. It would then follow up with transformation by addressing industry issues that would determine the long term growth of tourism.

The task force sought to position Kenya as the preferred destination for safari, beach, commercial, sports, educational, health and business conferences.

A preliminary forecasting model developed by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPRRA) indicates that had Kenya maintained a steady annual growth of 13 per cent, all factors held constant, the country would have attained the three million international arrivals mark by 2017as envisaged in the Vision 2030 Second Medium Term Plan. This would have meant that the targets set out in the Jubilee manifesto and the National Tourism Strategy 2013/17 would have been met.

The task force developed strategies to return Kenya to the 13 per cent growth and maintain the recovery phase up to 2017 and then escalate to a 20 per cent transformative growth so as to achieve the targeted six million tourists by the year 2020.

The task force unveiled short-term and medium-term recovery plans for the industry to return the country to those of its best year. One of the short-term goals – the Tourism Stimulus Package – was unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta. This included a raft of policies to prop the ailing tourism industry after governments in key markets of US, UK, France and Austria placed travel advisories against parts of Kenya.

The stimulus package’s strategic measures included tax incentives for companies to give holiday treats to their employees as a way of promoting domestic tourism. All air ticketing services supplied by travel agents were exempted from the VAT Act of 2013 to create employment and spur demand for air transport services.

The Government also stepped up efforts to resuscitate the industry through increased budgetary allocation to Kshs5.2 billion from the previous Kshs1 billion to tourism marketing, improving infrastructure as well as increased allocation of funds to the military and police to US$2.28 billion in 2015/16 fiscal year, up from US$2 billion in the 2014/15 budget to enhance security.  The implementation of the recommendations of the tourism recovery task force was a shot in the arm for the industry that had suffered a rocky path.

The Government engaged a UK-based international public relations firm Grayling PR, whose main task was to help downplay negative news on Kenya and bring to the fore positive news as part of recovery plan to market Kenya’s tourism sector overseas. Emerging market sources in Asia, such as India, China and the UAE, as well as in Africa like Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa, were also targeted in the recovery plan.

The Government also planned to roll out a one-year global advertising campaign through CNN to target key tourist source markets. However, the deal was suspended over a terrorism slur following a backlash from Kenyans angered by the CNN’s misrepresentation on the country’s security status by describing Kenya as a ‘hotbed of terror’.

President Uhuru Kenyatta took advantage of the official opening of the GES to respond by telling his American counterpart: “Kenya is a hotbed of vibrant culture, spectacular natural beauty and infinite possibility. Let the world hear a simple message: the narrative of African despair and indignity is false — indeed, it was never true. Mr President and to all of you gathered here, today let that narrative change… When you go home and as you travel around the world, tell those whom you meet about what you have seen in Kenya.”

Other strategies taken to spur growth of tourism included allowing all corporate and business entities to pay vacation expenses for their staff who went on holiday in the country and deduct such expenditures from their institution taxes.

Through this measure, Kenyans were given a chance to go on holidays at the expense of their employers.

The Ministry of East African Affairs Commerce and Tourism developed a sustainable master plan for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member countries.

This is a regional framework, which aims at harmonising tourism development in all member countries with an ultimate objective of being a single tourist destination. The master plan will assist Kenya to attain a full potential in attracting tourists from the rich IGAD region.

The Ministry also initiated major bilateral relations between Kenya and Nigeria, which culminated in the two countries signing a memorandum of understanding in tourism.

This was expected to result in the increase of tourist traffic between the two countries and attraction of investments in the sector.

The ministry participated in various investment promotion activities, including hosting Magical Kenya Expo.

Enhanced awareness on Kenya as an investment destination attracted high-end hotel investments, including prominent international hotel chains, such as Kempinski and Marriot Hotels in Nairobi, Billionaire Club in Malindi and Mahali Mzuri Luxury Camp in the Mara.

Global hotel chains

Eight international hotel chains expressed interest in the expanding Kenyan hotel scene to capture the growing number of business travellers. A report by W Hospitality Group said the hotels were expected to grow the country’s bed space by 1,510.

According to the report, Kenya recorded the largest growth in planned hotels on the continent at 100 per cent followed by Uganda at 90 per cent. Nairobi was ranked ninth, by the number of rooms with 1,220 units, but lagged behind Addis Ababa in the top 10 cities.

Of this figure, stated the survey, 70 per cent of the rooms were already under construction with the remaining 30 per cent in the pre-planning phase. This meant that six of the eight hotels had already broken ground, including Radisson Blu, Garden Inn by Hilton, Park Inn by Radisson as well as Accor.

It was anticipated that Accor would make its entry in the country through Pullman and is expected to open in Westlands, Nairobi, by 2016. Other brands not included in the survey but also investing in the local hospitality market included Golf View Hotel and Grand Sapphire with 220 and 196 rooms, respectively.

Simba Corporation, which has a stake in Kempinski hotels, invested an additional Sh3.1 billion to set up a chain of mid-priced hotels under the “Acacia Premier” and “Acacia Express” brands.

In recognising the contribution of the domestic tourism to the economy’s growth, the Ministry through its marketing arm, Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), in collaboration with the private sector, aggressively stepped up domestic tourism promotion campaigns.

These efforts saw a remarkable growth of this sub-sector from 37 per cent to 41 per cent of total bed nights.

The Government worked to diversify tourism products to include meetings, incentives conventions and exhibitions as well as water sports tourism, adventure, birding, golfing, agri-tourism and medical tourism.

Park fees reviewed

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) reviewed entry fees for premium national park downwards from USD90 per non-resident and Kshs1,200 per resident guest to USD80 and Kshs1,000, respectively.

The Government revoked the National Treasury’s circular restricting the public service from holding conferences and other meetings in private hotels. This was meant to ensure that private sector tourism players equally enjoyed the participation of the public sector. Budgetary resources earmarked for foreign travel by the National Government were reallocated to domestic travel in the supplementary budget 2014/15.

Similarly, county governments were urged to reallocate some foreign travel budgets to domestic travels in order to spur growth of domestic tourism and sustain employment. Landing charges were reduced by 40 per cent in Moi International Airport, Mombasa and Malindi Airport. Subsequently, the Government allocated resources to expand Malindi airport to international standards to allow larger commercial aircraft to land.

To improve the sector liquidity and cash flow, the Government directed that all outstanding income tax related refunds owed to tourism industry players be paid out by the Kenya Revenue Authority promptly. Some of these efforts saw the return of international tour operators and chartered airlines to the country as well as resumption of hotels and luxury villas at the coast.

Reasons for downturn

For two years running, Kenya suffered near shutdown of key tourism establishments, withdrawal of charter flights and cruise ships skipping Mombasa seaport. The dwindling fortune of the tourism industry was attributed to insecurity; economic slowdown in Europe (Kenya’s traditional tourist source market) and 16 per cent value added tax which made Kenya compete unfavourably with other countries in the region. Other factors cited included inadequate government funding, drop in product quality and service as well as declining wildlife population and haphazard development of accommodation facilities in major conservation areas, particularly the Maasai Mara.

The country also bore the brunt of negative travel advisories by some key tourist source countries and perceived health risks in Kenya due to the country’s geopolitical location and connectivity with West Africa, which was ravaged by Ebola.

The country was yet to recover from the previous year’s uncertainties associated with the 2013 General Election, the Westgate Mall terrorist attack on September 21, 2013, and the fire accident that damaged the international arrival lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi in August 2013.

International visitor arrivals and departures

KTB embarked on a campaign to diversify its tourist source markets to ensure that the sector remained stable even with fluctuating arrivals from its key markets. The top five tourist source markets for Kenya were the United Kingdom, the US, Italy, India and Germany.

However, the number of international visitor arrivals contracted by 11.1 per cent from 1,519,600 in 2013 to 1,350,400 in 2014 with a further decline by 12.6 per cent to 1,180,500 in

  1. Visitors who passed through the Moi International Airport (MIA) and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in 2015 constituted 63.4 per cent of the total visitors compared to 58.7 per cent in 2014. Monthly visitor arrivals through MIA were lower in 2015 in comparison with 2014 for all the months except November. Similarly, arrivals through JKIA were lower in most months of 2015 compared to 2014 though there was a slight improvement in the last half of the year.

In 2015, the total number of visitors went down by 23.3, 11.4 and 12.9 per cent in the first, second and third quarters, respectively. Overall, international visitor arrivals contracted by 12.6 per cent to 1,180,500 in 2015.

The number of international departures declined by 4.0 per cent from 1,403,700 in 2014 to 1,347,600 in 2015. In the second and third quarters of 2015, the number of visitors departing registered a growth of 2.3 per cent and 8.9 per cent, respectively. On the other hand, the first and fourth quarters recorded a drop of 14.1 per cent and 11.7 per cent in visitor departures, respectively.

Departing visitors by country of residence and purpose of visit by 3.7 per cent to 1,199,700 in 2015. Departures destined to Italy and Scandinavian countries decreased by 30.9 per cent and 42.8 per cent, respectively, while those to United Kingdom and Switzerland increased marginally in 2015. Visitors departing to African destinations, excluding Tanzania and Uganda, increased by 11.0 per cent to 242.1 thousand in 2015. Departures to “all other countries” more than doubled.

The total number of days stayed by all categories of departing visitors excluding “other” visitor contracted from 16,114,300 in 2014 to 15,837,000 in 2015 mainly due to a decline in holiday and business visitors. However, the average length of stay improved from 12.9 days in 2014 to 13.2 days in 2015. The continued assessment of security measures across the country including enhanced checks in public areas and increased police to citizen ratio encouraged the longer stay of tourists.

Business departures decreased from 202,300 in 2013 to 193,000 in 2014. Holiday departures went down for the third consecutive year by 10.8 per cent from 1,059,800 in 2013 to 945,500 in 2014. Overall, visitors departing declined by 7.3 per cent from 1,344,200 in 2013 to 1,246,000 in 2014. The average length of stay reduced from 13.2 days in 2013 to 12.3 days in 2014.

Bed occupancy

Annual average bed occupancy went down slightly from 31.6 per cent in 2014 to 29.1 per cent in 2015. Room occupancy dropped from 38.1 per cent in 2014 to 37.2 per cent in 2015. Bed occupancy rate was lower in 2015 compared to 2014 except in the months of April, September, October and November. Similarly, room occupancy rate was higher in February, August and October during the period under review.

Hotel bed-nights occupancy declined by 6.4 per cent to 5,878,600 in 2015. Bed occupancy by residents of Europe went down by 23.6 per cent. The highest decline was registered for residents of Italy from 156,200 in 2014 to 74,100 thousand in 2015. The number of occupants who were residents of Africa grew by 6.5 per cent to 3,619,300 in 2015, with the highest number being Kenyan residents.

The number of hotel bed-nights available in hotels, lodges and other rooming houses grew by 1.6 per cent from 19,877,200 in 2014 to 20,187,200 in 2015, mainly due to increased investments in the hospitality industry.

Hotel bed-nights occupancy in the coastal beach zone dropped by 16.4 per cent from 2,527,700 in 2014 to 2,113,800 in 2015. Bed-nights occupied in Nairobi’s high end resorts also registered a drop from 1,119,100 in 2014 to 1,014,900 in 2015. However, some zones, which included the other areas of the Coastal, Maasai land, the Nyanza Basin, Western and Northern Kenya reported notable improved performances. The Northern Kenya zone occupancy more than doubled from 60,900 in 2014 to 135,100 in 2015.

The South Coast was the most preferred destination, a shift from the North Coast. Mombasa Island registered improved bed-nights occupancy at the Coast in 2015, mainly due to its proximity to the international airport.

The share of hotel bed-nights occupied in lodges expanded from 8.6 per cent in 2014 to 10.7 per cent in 2015. The number of bed-nights occupied by Kenyans in the lodges increased from 171.0 thousand in 2014 to 300.9 thousand in 2015.

However, the percentage share of bed-nights occupied in Nairobi and the Coast continued to decline for the third year running. Notable declines were observed in the Coast region for residents from USA, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the Scandinavia.

Despite the decrease in the number of visitors to national parks and game reserves, the number of bed-nights occupied in hotel establishments located in these areas improved significantly from 540,400 in 2014 to 626,700 in 2015, representing 16.0 per cent rise.

The number of bed-nights in game lodges occupied by foreign residents dropped by 11.8 per cent to 323,100 in 2015. However, bed-nights occupied by East Africa residents grew by 74.8 per cent from 173,900 in 2014 to 303,700 in 2015. More than 85 per cent of the visitors preferred full catering services to self-service.

The number of visitors to national parks and game reserves dropped by 9.7 per cent from 2,164,600 in 2014 to 1,953,800 in 2015. This drop may partly be attributed to competition from neighbouring countries that do not charge value added tax on park entry fees. Amboseli and Lake Nakuru national parks recorded major declines of 25.7 per cent and 16.4 per cent, respectively, in 2015. However, Nairobi Safari Walk and Hell’s Gate registered improvements of 4.7 per cent and 6.7per cent, respectively.

Children citizens and residents visiting national parks and game reserves recorded increases in 2015 compared to 2014, with children citizens registering the highest number of all visitors. Most of the visitors to national parks and game reserves in 2015 continued to be the adult non-residents and citizens; children citizens and student citizens.

The number of visitors to museums, snake parks and historical sites rose by 15.4 per cent to 797,500 in 2015 on account of increases in the number of visitors to the National Museum and Fort Jesus, while the rest of the sites recorded decreases. The National Museum main gate recorded a remarkable performance of 264,oo0 thousand visitors in 2015 following the re-opening after renovations. Similarly, visitors to Fort Jesus increased by 7.0 per cent from 113,400 thousand in 2014 to 121,300 in 2015. The number of visitors to museums, snake parks and historical sites was highest in August while May registered the lowest.

The decline in the number of visitors led to tourism earnings declining from Kshs94 billion in 2013 to Kshs87.1 billion in 2014 and Kshs84.6 billion in 2015. This marked the fourth straight annual decline from the Ksh98 billion earned in 2011. Despite the lower earnings from tourism, the pace of economic growth grew to 5.6 per cent from 5.3 per cent in 2014.

International conferences held decreased for the third year running. The conferences and delegates dropped to 218 in 2015 from 241 in 2014 and 299 in 2013. 2015 registered 71,720 international delegates, down from 77,848 in 2014. Over the same period, local conferences increased to 3,199 in 2015 from 3,077 in 2014 and 2,849 in 2013. The delegates increased to 561,374, up from 547,262 in 2014 and 523,224 in 2013. The average occupancy rate of conference facilities declined by 0.3 percentage points to 11.1 per cent in 2015.

Visitors to Museums, Snake Parks and Historical Sites

Museums, snake parks and other historical sites recorded depressed performance in the number of visitors in 2014 compared to 2013. The total number of visitors to these attractions went down by 10.4 per cent to stand at 690.9 thousand in 2014 compared to 770.8 thousand in 2013.

The National Museum main gate and the Snake Park recorded decreased performance of 59.9 per cent to record 52.5 thousand visitors and 65.2 per cent to record 33.0 thousand visitors, respectively, in 2014. Visitors to Kisumu and Kitale museums recorded increases of 45.1 and 19.3 per cent, respectively, in 2014 as a result of devolution. The number of visitors to Fort Jesus, Gede and Lamu at the coast decreased in 2014.

Joint regional tourism visa

Regionally, Kenya worked with some neighbours to develop a common marketing plan to promote East Africa as a single tourist destination.

For a start, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda launched their joint single tourist visa during the 2014 International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin, Germany. The move was expected to boost regional integration and ease the movement of tourists across the participating countries.

All that tourists need with the visa is US$100 to visit the three states as many times as they wished for three months (90 days). Working like the Schengen visa for European Union countries, the East African single tourist visa allows a tourist to enter any of the three countries that issued the visa and move freely within the other two.

Issuance of a single tourist visa had been one of the goals pursued by member states of the East Africa Community for the past five years. Since the multiple-entry visa was launched, the three countries have jointly participated at key international marketing exhibitions such as the World Travel Market (WTM) and International Tourism Bourse (ITB).

Charting route for marketing

Kenya’s tourism recovery efforts were boosted by a ringing endorsement by Mr Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), during a Mombasa forum for East Africa Tourism Development. The East Africa Tourism Development Forum at the Sarova Whitesands in Mombasa was used to explore ways of unlocking the region’s tourism potential. More than 250 participants from 10 countries, including ministers from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Seychelles, attended the meeting. The UNWTO has been pushing for countries to form regional tourism clusters. Such groupingswould provide an effective marketing platform beyond individual country destinations.  The meeting’s theme was “Connecting Opportunity” and sought ways of enhancing the visibility of the East African market in the highly competitive global tourism.