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Kenya shares its magic at Arabian travel market

By Shamlal Puri | May 15th 2016 | 4 min read

Adventure holidays and a fervent desire to see wildlife has always captivated Filipino John Pinoy, an expatriate working in Dubai.

For the past few months he has been planning his next family holiday in Kenya, which he has christened “God’s own country.”

Even though that phrase is used to promote the Indian state of Kerala, Pinoy insists Kenya is just as heavenly.

“I have read a lot about the beautiful land of Kenya and watched TV documentaries featuring its unique wildlife but never got a chance to visit,” he says. “Looking at what this country has to offer, I will surely plan my next holiday there.

Like Pinoy, the natural beauty and the unique wildlife of Kenya attracted the attention of thousands of visitors from the United Arab Emirates and across the Middle East and further afield who had descended upon Dubai’s World Trade Centre for the four-day Arabian Travel Market in April.

The 23rd annual business-to-business exhibition attracted 2,800 exhibitors from 87 countries. More than 26,000 visitors turned up to see the various destinations on offer. The theme of this year’s event was mid-market travel.

Held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, the event has become the largest showcase of its kind in the region and one of the biggest in the world.

Kenya’s presence was especially welcome at the event as it returned to the exhibition after a three-year break. There was a lot of interest in Kenya as a destination throughout the event and at the launch of a major consumer campaign YallaKenya — Come Let’s Go to Kenya at the high profile Conde Naste Luxury Magazine Party added icing to the cake.

A spokesperson for the Kenya Tourism Board said that YallaKenya is intended to attract tourists to Kenya.

It will start in UAE and will cover rest of the GCC region — Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Fatuma Hirsi, the Tourism Principal Secretary, said “we are certain that efforts in this campaign will bear fruit in this market that enjoys good connectivity to Nairobi.

“In the last year Kenya’s visibility has grown in the global arena, hosting key personalities at international meetings.”

I asked Dubai tour consultant E. Joseph what he thought of Kenya’s campaign to attract tourists.

“It is well thought out and, if publicised well, is bound to attract many tourists from the UAE, especially expatriates living and working here who are always looking for new places to visit during their annual holidays.

“Many of them get tired of returning to their countries and prefer to travel to other places, but Kenya has to compete against South Africa for GCC tourists and handle its marketing campaign aggressively and competitively.”


Kenya has also been on the mind of exhibitors at the show.

The UAE-based Time Hotels Management stepped forward to support communities in Africa. Time Hotel’s CEO Mohamed Awadalla revealed that for the first time, it has partnered with Etihad Airways on a charity initiative to support the development of three schools for underprivileged children in Kakamega County.

The Likuyani primary, nursery and special needs boarding schools, which have  a capacity of 1,700 learners, were handed over earlier this year after the refurbishment and repair works were completed.

As I toured the exhibition, I discovered that there were many attractions in the national pavilions of the various countries. The Egyptian Pavilion had a big floor space and was selling its attractions to a discerning audience.

The South African Pavilion attracted a lot of attention and interest from the many visitors. Described as A World in One Country, the pavilion had 18 companies participating in a big drive to attract tourists.

Home to a diverse range of activities, World Heritage, cultural and historic sites, South Africa is an eclectic mix of traditional cultural and First World infrastructure and is no doubt competing squarely against Kenya for tourists from the GCC region.

The Thailand Pavilion, which was built in a typical Thai architectural style, attracted attention as did the Malaysian and South Korean pavilions.

The Turkish Pavilion occupied a big space in the exhibition hall and was alive with visitors keen to find out more about Turkey and to enjoy traditional Turkish hospitality which included Turkish delight sweets and beverages. The Sri Lankan Pavilion attracted considerable interest from tour operators who were holding meetings with the head of the Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau.

Visitors were also enjoying Sri Lankan tea.

The Incredible India pavilion was incredible as usual.

The Taiwan National Pavilion was a magnet for many visitors who stopped by to watch the traditional tea ceremony and find out more about that destination. Many people were curious to find out more about Macao and its attractions.

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