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Upbeat mood as regional joint tourism expo held

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Dr Alfred Mutua has called on the East African Community partner states to work together and market the region as a single tourism destination in order to attract more business from the sector.

“The EARTE expo is a platform to drive conversations on how best we can work together as a joint marketing unit to realize our tourism growth goals within the region,” he said.

Mutua spoke while opening the third edition of the East African Regional Tourism Expo (EARTE) and the 13th edition of the Magical Kenya Tourism Expo (MKTE) early in the week. Mutua said the EAC region should adopt an integrated tourism marketing strategy in order to enhance competitiveness, attract more tourists and increase earnings.

It was the first time Kenya was hosting the EARTE travel fair which was held in conjunction with the 13th edition of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) under the theme ‘Tourism for Green Growth.”

The joint expo, which ran from the 20th to 22nd, drew 266 exhibitors and 109 buyers from at least 31 countries. Rebecca Alitawa Kadaga, First Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda and Minister for East African Affairs, underscored the abundant opportunities inherent in the region, notably highlighting the shared resource, Lake Victoria, among Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Dr Mutua disclosed plans for closer collaboration among the EAC States, envisioning circuits to facilitate travel and promote cultural interactions across East Africa’s diverse cultures.

“The EARTE annual tourism expo is among the key initiatives that we have embarked on as part of implementing the Regional Tourism Marketing Strategy 2021- 2025 aimed at increasing visitor arrivals to pre-pandemic levels of 7.2 million by the end of 2024,” said Annette Mutaawe Ssemuwemba, the deputy secretary general in charge if customs, trade and monetary affairs at the East African Community.

The fair also attracted exhibitors from beyond the EAC region. South Africa’s Deputy Minister for Tourism Fish Mahlalela and Nombulelo Guliwe, the acting CEO of South African Tourism, led a delegation to the expo.

“During my time at the expo, I had the pleasure of engaging with key tourism stakeholders from the continent, which proved to be an enlightening experience. I gained valuable insights that will enable me to promote our country and continent further,” said Ms Guliwe.

South Africa has witnessed a significant growth in visitors from Kenya. From January through September 2023, South Africa welcomed 28,554 Kenyan visitors, double the number compared to a similar period in 2022.

The exhibition also saw some good news from tourism and travel stakeholders. Jambojet, for instance, announced its new Mombasa-Zanzibar route, part of its expansion strategy, during the fair.

“The Mombasa – Zanzibar route is not just a flight route, but a bridge connecting the region to beautiful coastal experiences in Kenya and Zanzibar. With its rich history, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture, the two destinations are gems within the Indian Ocean, and we are delighted to bring these breathtaking destinations closer to you,” said Jambojet Chairman Vincent Rague.

Jambojet was named Africa’s Leading Low-Cost Airline at the World Travel Awards, Africa. Also celebrating a win at the expo was the luxurious Billionaire Resort and Retreat, Malindi, which won the prestigious award for the ‘Best Boutique Resort in Africa’ at the World Travel Awards, Africa region.

“The win is a celebration not only for the Billionaire Resort & Retreat, but for Malindi, indeed Kilifi and the entire coastline from Mombasa to Lamu,” said Marko Hytonen, Managing Partner - Babylon Hospitality, Africa.

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