Government Efforts Currently Being put in Place to Boost Tourism In Kenya

Government Efforts Currently Being put in Place to Boost Tourism In Kenya

Speech by Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Hon. Najib Balala’s at the American Chamber of Commerce Luncheon,

Tuesday 17th May, 2016, Crowne Plaza, Nairobi

Invited Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I take this opportunity to thank the organizers of this event - The American Chamber of Commerce in Kenya - for bringing us together, to network and share some of the developments in our countries.

In our amidst are representatives from various US-based multinationals and local companies having strong business ties with the United States as well as representatives from the media fraternity in Kenya.

It is no doubt that this forum will provide an opportunity for us to interact and share some of the best practices and opportunities available for the two countries.

Tourism in Kenya

As you may be aware, tourism contributes immensely to the economic, social, political and even environmental advancements of developing countries, Kenya included. The tourism sector in Kenya contributes approximately 11% to the country’s GDP. Tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner after Diaspora remittances and agriculture (tea, coffee, horticulture and flowers). Tourism contributes 10.6% (589,500 jobs) of the total employment in Kenya, both directly and indirectly.

The Kenya Vision 2030 identifies Tourism as the key contributor to its success under the Economic Pillar. In fact, the return of the Tourism Ministry as a standalone ministry by the President last year is a clear indication of the importance that has been attributed to the tourism sector.

Ladies and Gentlemen

As we gather here today, it is important to note that the world is changing focus and redirecting energies towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sustainable development has come into sharp focus in the recent past with the realization that the Earth is indeed finite. Environmental issues are becoming of increasing significance in the world of Tourism as they are the pillar to other social, economic and political issues. Certain destinations around the world are experiencing the effects of climate change where some are either gaining or losing biodiversity.

With this in context, the government is now realigning its functions towards the achievement of the SDGs. The Ministry of Tourism is also advocating for inclusion of tourism innational and international emergency preparedness measures in order to build resilience of the sector, reduce risk of damage and loss, accelerate recovery and provide collective support to areas affected by hardship and vulnerability.

Peace, Security and Safety

Ladies and Gentlemen

Safety and Travel Advisories

There can never be sustainable development without peace and therefore no sustainable tourism without peace. Kenya has suffered the brunt of insecurity with many countries issuing travel advisories to their citizens against travelling to Kenya. Tourism has been in the doldrums since 2011 when the bite on the Eurozone crisis affected our traditional source markets. Later, the uncertainties and risks associated with the General Election of 2013 played a role in shrinking the sector further. The sporadic terrorist attacks led to cancellation of chartered flights and closure of holiday resorts leading to massive loss of jobs. About 30,000 jobs have been lost as a result of insecurity threats and travel advisories. Countries have been giving false impression that all of Kenya is dangerous to visit which has led to cancellation of bookings, and insurance companies fearing to deal with tourists intending to visit Kenya.

Invited guests

Travel advisories issued irresponsibly destroy economies; they create dire circumstances and resentment leading to an environment for extremism to thrive.

Governments should think carefully about advisories against other countries that suffer terrorist attacks. Instead of communicating advisories, I call upon you to offer your support in dealing with the terrorism menace. It is a global problem and not a Kenyan affair

However, I am happy to report today that as a result of our recent engagements with most European countries, many countries have started downgrading the travel advisories. Germany has been the latest country to downgrade her travel advisory and this is good for Kenya.

We are also experiencing a return of flights that had redirected their services to other countries. Case in point is Denmark which has announced the return of its flights to Kenya beginning January 2017. Big tour operators such as TUI Poland will return charters in July while TUI Germany and UK are expected end of the year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To further aid in tourism recovery, the government has invested heavily in security. About 15% of the country’s budget has gone to matters security. Aerial surveys, CCTV cameras and frequent patrols have been intensified all over the country. With this reassurance, we are working hard to ensure the tourism numbers improve in the near future.

The government also announced, early this year, various incentives which are key in helping the sector through the recovery process. The Charter Incentive Program for instance has waived landing fees for charters with 80% of passengers terminating at Mombasa and Malindi airports for the next 2 years. The program is aimed at recovering lost business from tourist charter aircrafts that used to terminate at these two airports.

Waiving of visa fees for children under the age of 16 years is also meant to encourage family travel to Kenya. We have also reduced park entry fees from $90 to a high of $60 in consultation with the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Wildlife Conservation

Tourism in Kenya is largely dependent on nature, particularly wildlife. Any threat to wildlife poses great challenge to the industry and its sustainability. Kenya isglobally known as home to the authentic safari and without wildlife, there is no Safari. As a country, we have a duty to conserve the remaining wildlife for future generations and as a source of revenue and employment for many. Just as Tourism is good for conservation so is Conservation for Tourism. The recent burning of 105 tonnes of tusks at Nairobi National Park by the President on 30th April 2016 signals a concerted fight against wildlife poaching to protect and preserve wildlife for posterity and prosperity of our tourism industry.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Many asked why a poor country like Kenya should burn ivory while it can sell and generate money for its people. For us in the Tourism sector, Ivory only has monetary value when it is on a living elephant. When hundreds of tourists stream into our parks to see and marvel over our elephants and our Rhinos that adds monetary value through revenue generation for our country. Ivory and Rhino horn is usually gotten when the poor animal is killed.

Infrastructure Development

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway is among the ongoing developments in infrastructure that will enhance tourism growth in the country. Currently, road transport accounts for 80% of the total movement of passengers and freight in the country. When completed, the expanded railways network will ease movement of freight on roads where it causes road damage and consequently high roads maintenance costs as well as road traffic accidents. 

From the above, we realize that Tourism is multi-disciplinary in nature and is greatly affected by other deliverables such as infrastructure and security. Tourism cannot thrive without a vibrant, well-developed infrastructure and sound security.

The ministry is actively engaged in inter-ministerial lobbying with the relevant ministries to ensure well developed road networks leading to tourism spots as well as fast-tracking the expansion of JKIA and Malindi Airports to handle greater numbers of visitors.

Further, the President early this year ordered for the fast-tracking of the Port-Reitz Mombasa Road and the Dongo-Kundu by-pass that will allow tourists to travel to the South Coast without using the ferry. The tour vans ferrying tourists have in the meantime been given direct pass and are no longer required to queue at the ferry. This saves time and ensures smooth flow of tourists.

Construction of World Class Cruise ship Terminal - The Government of Kenya has entered into partnership with development partners for the construction of a world class cruise ship terminal in Mombasa. The new terminal will ease the movement of goods at the port while increasing the number of tourists docking at the port.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Tourism conditions for the industry are very challenging the world over and travelers have become more demanding. We are responding to their requirements as we also step up our resilience and keep our positive narrative alive in the face of potential and actual threats to ensure that we remain a destination that is in demand.

In conclusion, I call upon all our friends to support the government’s efforts towards tourism recovery. We have suffered a lot and now we need to bring back the industry to where it was in the past. As government we will endeavour to provide an enabling environment that fosters growth in the sector.

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