Kenya’s new tourist board chairman has been using this year’s World Travel Market in London as a platform to meet partners from around the world to discuss initiatives in the country’s fight back against dwindling tourism numbers. Kenya Tourist Board chairman Jimi Kariuki says the event comes at a crucial time to get messages across that the country is back in business. In the peak season in 2011, Kenya attracted 1.78 million visitors, but that figure dropped to 1.18 million last year.
In March, Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Kariuki, then marketing and sales director at Sarova Hotels, on a three –year term. He is currently working to spearhead the recovery of tourism through campaigns intended to help the government achieve its 2016 target of 1.6 million international tourist arrivals.
However, he believes the tourism sector has the potential to attract at least five million visitors annually. “We have categorised our source markets to make it easier for our marketing team to link up with partners so that we can attract large numbers of tourists into the country this year,” he said.
The Kenyan government has recently launched initiatives including visa free waivers for under-16s, reduction of entry park fees, incentives for charters and a scrapping of a 16% VAT on tourism services – a move that is expected to bring down safari costs. The Kenyan Tourist Board is also doing joint marketing with national carrier Kenya Airways to attract travellers from other African countries to come into Kenya for holidays, as well as promoting the country in emerging markets in Eastern Europe, specifically Poland and the Czech Republic.
The tourist board has partnered with TUI Poland in marketing the country in Poland to sustain charter flights from Warsaw to Mombasa. The industry is expected to perform better than in 2015, bolstered by a rise in international tourist bookings from overseas markets. Currently, lodges and tented camps in the Maasai Mara National Reserve are enjoying roaring business in the wake of the wildebeest migration, while at the coast, hotel bookings have improved following the resumption of charter flights from Europe to Mombasa.