Kenya continued to display a show of renewed vigour in the tourism sector as more congratulatory messages streamed in in support of the government’s efforts towards revamping the sector. At the climax of the ongoing ITB fair in Berlin, hundreds of participants continued to flock the Kenyan stand to learn more about the recent incentives announced by the government to aide in the recovery of the tourism sector. Over 42 exhibitors drawn from hotels, airlines and tour operators are displaying some of the very best deals from Kenya.
Tourism cabinet secretary Najib Balala who is leading the Kenyan delegation to the event has participated in Panel discussions where he has given an impressive picture of the return of the country’s tourism industry after nearly two years of dismal performance in tourism arrivals.
“Yes we have been bruised as a country, but we are now back” Said Hon. Balala during a press briefing attended by local and international media in Germany.
CS Balala took this opportunity to outline to the world some of the incentives that the government has put in place to help the growth of the industry in Kenya. Top on the incentives was the fact that the government was now working on the repair of the Maasai Mara – Narok road to ensure a constant flow of tourists to the Mara. It was good news to the exhibitors who were informed that the Standard gauge railway will be operational from June 2017 . Hon Balala said this will reduce the time taken on the road from Mombasa to Nairobi . While encouraging Germans to increase their numbers to Kenya, Hon. Balala “ Kenya is not the Kenya that you knew before, things are changing and changing for the better”.
Other incentives that the CS announced include the scrapping of the visa fees for children under 16 years . This he said is aimed at promoting family travel to Kenya.
Also top as an incentive as outlined by the cabinet secretary is the charter incentive program and passenger subsidies where he noted that the the government had waived landing fees for charters with 80% of the passengers terminating at Mombasa and Malindi for the next 2years.
The program he said was aimed at recovering lost business from tourist charter aircrafts that used to terminate at Moi International and Malindi airports. He substantiated that under the program, all tourist charter aircrafts with passengers terminating at Mombasa and Malindi airports, will enjoy free landing and a passenger subsidy of USD 30 per tourist if 80% 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 40percent tourist arrivals in Kenya as a result of the travel advisories. Don’t punish us twice “continued Hon. Balala .
The CS who is accompanied by the Ministry’s Principal Secretary has expressed Optimism that the negotiations he has had with the European market will bear fruits in the near future.