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Kenya's tourism sector upbeat as global travel exhibition kicks off in Kwale

COUNTIES
By Philip Mwakio | Oct 15th 2015 | 4 min read

The fifth edition of the annual Magical Kenya Travel Expo organised by the Kenya Tourism Board kicked off in Diani, Kwale County yesterday, amid optimism in the sector. The expo has attracted over 10 counties including Taita Taveta, Lamu, Turkana, Meru, Kajiado, Bungoma and Nairobi.

Participants follow proceedings during the annual Magical Kenya Travel Expo seminar at the Leisure Lodge Beach Resort in Diani, Kwale County yesterday. At least 35 countries are participating in the travel expo, which will be officially opened today. (PHOTO: GIDEON MAUNDU/ STANDARD)

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phylis Kandie in a statement noted that the move to host the event at the Kenyan coast was meant to show tourists that the region, which has suffered the brunt of insecurity that led to travel bans, was safe and open for business. KTB Managing Director

Muriithi Ndegwa said the huge turnout signifies that Kenya is still a popular destination despite the many challenges it is facing.

The fifth edition of the annual Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) organised by the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), kicked off in Diani yesterday amid optimism that the tourism sector is set to bounce back.

The expo, being held at Leisure Lodge Resort & Club, away from its traditional venue in Nairobi, has attracted a record 174 international hosted buyers.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phylis Kandie in a statement noted that the move to host the event at the Kenyan coast was meant to draw the attention of tourists that the region, which had suffered the brunt of insecurity that led to travel bans, was safer and open for business. "We are highly impressed by the number of foreign buyers in attendance at this year's event and hope that those tasked with selling Kenya will help entice many visitors to come," she said.

Visiting travel publisher from Nigeria Ikechi Uko, hailed KTB for bringing the expo to the Kenyan coast, terming it an ingenious move.

"It is worth having the event at the Kenyan coast, which we have undoubtedly found out to be a must-visit destination," he said.

KTB Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa while welcoming delegates to the event, which runs from today to Saturday, said the huge turnout signifies that Kenya was still a popular destination despite the many challenges it was facing.

Kwale Tourism Executive Adan Sheikh said the county was proud to partner with KTB in hosting the event. "Hosting of this event, which continues to be a global must-attend forum right at the shores of our idyllic white sandy beaches that have won international recognition and accolades from the travel industry, is a positive move," Adan said.

Mr Ndegwa added that travel agents, tour operators, hoteliers and trade media from key tourism source markets among them Europe, Africa, Asia and Americas have begun arriving.

He said the expo is one of the major events that KTB has identified as a platform to reinforce Kenya's resilience and zeal to market her tourism products, which resonates well with this year's theme: 'Sustainability: Keeping the magic Alive'.

"The expo adds to the key international events hosted in the country this year including among others the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held two months ago and the visit by US President Barack Obama," added Ndegwa. He said since the birth of MKTE four years ago, the event has attracted interest and attention from stakeholders as evidenced by the growth of exhibitors to over 40 per cent.

 Revive industry

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Chief Executive Officer Mike Macharia told The Standard that from trends being experienced and following the Government's intervention aimed at resuscitating the industry, the earliest the tourism industry can start to pick up is February next year.

"Recovery is a process and the earliest we expect the industry to be firmly on its feet is early next year," said Mr Macharia.

He pointed out that Kenyan tourism should not be left to rely on mainly tourists from overseas but also tap into the regional market, which has shown a lot of potential.

"There is bigger market right at our doorstep in the East African region, which has a total population of  over 140 million people," he said.

Mr Macharia said there is already a lot of outbound traffic from the region to idyllic locations like Dubai, the Seychelles and Mauritius, which Kenyan tourism could capture easily as it has very diverse and unique attractions.

Over ten counties including Taita Taveta, Lamu, Turkana, Meru, Kajiado, Bungoma and Nairobi are set to showcase at the event. A number of tourism agencies like  Kenya Utalii College, Kenyatta International Convention Centre and hotels are also exhibiting at the event. International tourism boards represented include the Seychelles, Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda, Zimbabwe among others.

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