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Ideas & Debate

How to drive tourism sector growth

In June this year Kenya defended its title as the leading tourist destination in Africa at the world travel awards held in Mauritius. Other awards included the best beach destination, prominent meeting and conference destination as well as having our very own Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) taking home the title of Africa’s leading tourist board.

For that reason Kenya will host next year’s Africa and Indian Ocean Gala ceremony. Last year 2018 the country saw the international tourist arrivals hit the two million mark which was an improvement to the previous year 2017 which had 1.5 million arrivals.

Despite the attacks on the country’s stability by terrorists and political instability, Kenya has leaped back to claim its glory in this sector.

Sports tourism is on the rise, what with our very own Eliud Kipchoge breaking the world record in marathon leaving many sports people across the world curious to experience his home terrain.

This December Mombasa will host the Golf ladies European Tour, the Ladies European Tour will see an impressive 28 countries from six continents represented during this inaugural ladies' golf tournament. The unique and quality of Kenya as a tourist destination has seen more and more tour operator eye the market.

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This is evident in its diversity of tourism product and variability, which has seen investors coming up with new products such as curative spas that target health and fitness.

Packages have been developed to cater for the young as well as the older tourists. In the last five years global hotel chains have tapped into the Kenyan market considered to be the economic hub of East and central Africa.

This entrance by global chain hotels has been motivated by the growing number of visitors into the country hence the demand for more bed capacity and the fact that Nairobi has placed itself as a leading destination in Africa for leisure and business.

The industry continues to be a big employer in the country despite its highs and lows that have been brought about by security concerns, seasonality and at times political instability. In recent years domestic travellers have levelled the playground and taken to holidaying more.

Domestic tourist numbers have increased tremendously facilitated by low cost travel packages offered by local tour operators as well as the appreciation of our very own country as a beautiful tourist destination.

The middle class continues to increase in number with young families wanting to travel for leisure whenever an opportunity comes up. Unlike the time when Kenyans flocked to the country side during holidays the trend is slowly changing with families and individuals opting to visit different tourist destination or engage in group activities.

The introduction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) has made travelling to the Coast faster and cheaper. Introduction of low cost airlines such as Jambo jet, Flysax and Fly 540 has also made travelling more affordable in the region. The government needs to continuously support and promote domestic and international tourism by improving infrastructure such as roads.

Good transportation is necessary in destinations not just for accessibility but also for comfort on the roads. The government should engage in more aggressive marketing strategies especially to markets that produce low arrivals namely Asia and other African countries, in addition to favourable tax measures that improve the industry as well as promote revenue generating for the country.

Investors in the country need to diversify the tourism products to attract different kinds of visitors. Kenya tourism and hospitality needs a new strategy to create very new products that will see the two million hit a five million mark.

It’s possible! Theme parks involving unique activities and adventure tours can greatly diversify the industry.

The writer is a hospitality and tourism lecturer at Presbyterian University of East Africa.

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