Kenya turns to China to boost tourist numbers

By Andrew Watila

Kenya: Kenya is courting Asian countries to boost plummeting tourism numbers caused by terror attacks, last year’s  March 4 polls and security operation jitters. Increased marketing in China has paid off as more than 110 Chinese tourists visited Kenya last Saturday at one go.  The tourists were received by Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa and hosted at a dinner at Safari Park Hotel. They will visit Nairobi, Masai Mara and Nyeri in the Mt Kenya tourism circuit as part of the plans to boost tourism in counties. Ndegwa said this is one of the biggest numbers of tourist arrivals at a go, adding that terrorism is a global phenomena that affect any nation.

 He observed that increased number of Chinese visitors has been helped by KTB undertaking a series of activities to market Kenya to the Asian country via road shows. “We have been marketing Kenya to first tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai to create more awareness in the Chinese market. This has also been boosted by CCTV’s airing of Kenyan tourism potential,” he said.

Ndegwa said China is second largest tourist destination for Kenya in Asia, after India, with more than 40,000 Chinese tourists visiting Kenya last year. KTB expects this to grow to surpass 100, 000 by 2016.  The event organised by a Kenyan firm Somak Safaris and Global Tours, China, comes at a time when tourist numbers have plummeted owing to insecurity concerns in some parts of the country. Coastal hotels say bookings have gone down due to terror attacks and jitters caused by security operations to flush out radicalised youth. “Tourist numbers reduced during the period to the polls and started picking up in May but the Westgate Mall terrorism attack saw numbers drop again. I don’t want to speculate but will release the figures next week,” said KTB boss.  “Terror attacks affected Bali in Indonesia, London and America in September 11, 2001. What Kenya is doing is commendable to recover the numbers and boost safety of tourists and Kenyans at large.” 

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He said Kenya was also exploring ways of promoting cultural tourism and agri-tourism, where visitors can experience the green environment of Kenya’s agriculture such as tea and coffee picking. KTB expects the number of Chinese tourists visiting the country to match or even surpass those coming from the traditional tourist source markets of UK, US, Germany and Italy in coming years.

The UK, US and Italy are the largest source markets. They contributed 171,000 (UK), 116,000(US) and 81,000 (Italy) of the 1.2 million tourists to Kenya during the last financial year. Other key markets are India (66,000) and Germany (64,000).

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tourism China terror attacks