Hoteliers at the Coast are upbeat ahead of improved tourist arrivals as the July high season begins, thanks to enhanced security and infrastructural development.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye lauded the government for ongoing infrastructure projects.
“We are expecting a lot of investment in coastal towns due to the improvement in infrastructure. Many roads leading to tourist destinations have been built. The completion of Dongo Kundu bypass has opened up Diani for investment and also reduced traffic jams in Likoni,” Mr Ikwaye said.
He also cited the expansion of Malindi Airport to enable charter flights to land as a welcome move to boost tourism in Kilifi County.
The standard gauge railway will also boost the sector, he said. Mr Ikwaye said the planned railway line from Lamu through Malindi, Mtwapa and eventually Mariakani will open up Diani, Ukunda, Kilifi and Malindi to more investment.
He also noted that there has been improvement in security even during the low season.
“We have seen a lot of improvement in security compared to the past when the tourism sector was shaken a great deal (by terrorism),” Mr Ikwaye said.
Conferences held in Mombasa in May and June — mostly by the national and county government officials — saw many hotels enjoy a boom.
Most of the hotels were 100 per cent booked during the period, night-life spots were full while beach operations benefited from the high number of both local and international visitors. Kenya Tourism Federation Chairman Mohammed Hersi said that tourism stakeholders were hopeful that the peace prevailing in the country will be maintained during the high season.
“We are optimistic that the sector will flourish during the high season. We also want to thank the security sector for maintaining peace and we urge the same to prevail so that we have more visitors coming to our country,” Mr Hersi said.
He noted that tourists had started arriving and the safari sector, especially to the Maasai Mara, was picking up.
He said that improvement of transport and communication infrastructure was impacting the sector in a positive way.
“We acknowledge the licensing of direct flights to the US. America is a big country and this means more foreign exchange for our country,” Mr Hersi said.
Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa managing director Bobby Kamani said improvement of ferry services will boost tourism in the coast and other destinations across the country.
“Improvement of the service will ease congestion and accessibility of key locations such as Diani, Malindi, Lamu and later Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana,” Mr Kamani said.
Last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that any African visiting Kenya would get a free visa on arrival. Mr Kamani said the move has started bearing fruits.
“Visa-free travel for Africans is a great move and a strategic one for the tourism industry. This will definitely increase regional and continental travel. We have started seeing a positive change in this respect,”Mr Kamani said.
He added that tourists from Africa to Kenya represent 30 per cent of arrivals and urged hoteliers to utilise the season well.
“This is largely untapped potential that hoteliers need to consider when drawing up their strategic plans for business development,” he said.
Mr Kamani said that the recent handshake between Mr Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga brought about political stability which has led to improvement in the tourism sector.
“The handshake was seen as a truce. Kenya has achieved political stability which is necessary for tourism growth and economic progress,” Mr Kamani said.