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After peaceful vote, local tourism looks up

Updated Saturday, August 28th 2010 at 00:00 GMT +3
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By George Obulutsa

Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) expects the peaceful referendum to boost tourism and that visitor numbers this year may surpass 2007 record, the board’s Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa has said.

Kenya’s third largest source of foreign exchange after horticulture and tea exports earned Sh65.4 billion in 2007, but was the worst affected sector by bloody post-election fighting and the global economic slowdown the following year.

The peaceful conduct of the vote, in contrast to 2007 General Election that degenerated into weeks of murderous violence, has put the country in a good light.

"The referendum itself was done in a very professional and calm way. As a result of that, we believe that this gives a very strong statement of endorsement of the country as a tourist destination," Ndegwa told Reuters.

"Especially if you look at the background in terms of what happened in 2008, we do believe that this feel-good effect will have a very positive bearing on tourism going forward."

Guarantees of a new charter — to replace one in place since independence in 1963 — were central to a power-sharing deal in 2008 that ended the violent crisis.

KTB said last week tourist arrivals rose to 483,000 in the first-half of this year, surpassing 477,000 recorded in a similar period in 2007.

"I think we would be saying that barring any negative incidences, God willing, we expect tourism to perform better this year than it did in 2007," Ndegwa said, when the country attracted 1.05 million visitors.

"We have continued to aggressively market the destination in the source markets, and perhaps this is what has resulted in the growth that we have seen."

The hotel and tourism sector contributes less than two per cent directly to output in Kenya, but the indirect influence on the economy is much bigger.

Kenya draws visitors attracted by its abundant wildlife and its sun-kissed beaches at the coast.

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