Kenya and Uganda in pact to shore up cross-border tourist numbers

A section of the Nubian Community from Uganda displays Nubian art crafts in an Exhibition stand at Mama Ngina drive in Mombasa County on March 26, 2016. [File, Standard]

Tourism players at the Kenyan Coast are eager to consolidate gains made by a working formula between them and their Ugandan counterparts to boost cross-border tourism.

In an interview with Weekend Business, the chairperson of the Kenya Association of Women in Tourism, Mombasa Chapter and chief executive officer of Jacyjoka Holiday Apartments in Mombasa Janet Chamia said statistics on cross-border arrivals between the two countries show great potential.

''We need to boost even further the close collaboration and ensure that there are more Kenyan tourists sampling the various attractions in Uganda and vice versa. The existence of flights operated by Uganda Airlines and a host of Kenyan airlines, which connect Entebbe and Mombasa, is a plus to ensure easy connectivity,'' said Ms Chamia.

Speaking after her return from Uganda where she was part of a delegation to the country for a visit organised jointly by the Ugandan consulate in Mombasa and Ugandan Tourism stakeholders, Ms Chamia noted that Uganda is one of Kenya's leading source markets in Africa.

Already a second annual Uganda-Kenya Coast tourism conference is slated for November in Kwale County.

''This conference like the inaugural one held last year will provide an opportunity for a structured discourse towards developing Kenya Coast tourism and Uganda circuit where tourists to the region can visit both nations under one circuit while accelerating cross-border tourism. Kenya's coast offers a unique experience like the white sand beaches and high-end beach hotels and restaurants,'' said Ms Chamia, who also sits on the board of the Kenya Coast Tourist Association.

She said that the Kenya coast is also home to marine life, including the humpback whale sharks, which come to the coast in search of warm waters to mate and breed.

The Fort Jesus landmark with a history dating back to the slave trade, said Ms Chamia, makes it a must-visit destination.

She also cited the Arabuko Sokoke Tropical Forest in Kilifi county, which is home to a host of over 230 bird species, including endangered ones; World War 1 and 2 sites and the Kenyatta caves in Taita Taveta County, where founding East African presidents Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Milton Obote (Uganda) and Julius Nyerere (Uganda) took refuge from the British colonialists.

Internationally, the United States (US) was Kenya's leading international tourist market last year, overtaking the United Kingdom (UK), a report by the Tourism Research Institute (TRI) released earlier this year showed.

According to the report, 209,360 American tourists visited Kenya last year as more cruise ships called on the port of Mombasa and Kenya Airways increased the frequency of its direct flights to the United States after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This was 16 per cent of the total international arrivals, which stood at 1,483,752 into Kenya from key source markets," said the report released by Tourism, Wildlife, and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Peninah Malonza recently. International arrivals closed the year at 1.48 million visitors, representing a 70.45 per cent increase compared to the 2021 arrivals at 870,465 visitors.

"A 72 per cent recovery level was recorded in 2022 compared to 2019. This growth can be attributed to many source markets lessening their Covid-19 restrictions and opening for travel," noted the report.

Kenya's largest international airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) saw a 64.97 per cent increase in passenger numbers last year compared to 2021 when arrivals closed at over one million.

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