Number of Gulf-based tourists to Kenya steadily increasing

July 12, 2011

Muriithi Ndegwa

Tourism from the Gulf to Kenya recorded 40 per cent growth in the first quarter of 2011 over the same period last year, a top Kenyan tourism official has said.

“We have had a huge growth from the UAE and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” Mauriithi Ndegwa, the managing director of the Kenya Tourist Board, said. “We have also had good figures from India, China and the rest of Africa,” he told Gulf News.

Tourism in the East African country is second to agriculture and generates about 11 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the official said.

According to Ndegwa, close to 15,000 tourists from the Gulf region visited Kenya last year and the new Gulf Air flight to Nairobi “opens immense tourist opportunities.”

The airline re-launched its operations to the Kenyan capital last week,

“By re-connecting Nairobi with Bahrain we are re-opening the huge commercial and tourism opportunity for entrepreneurs and business people from both markets,” Marcus Bernhardt, Gulf Air Chief Services Officer, said in Nairobi. “We are confident this new route will be a success for both our passenger and cargo operations, and we look forward to facilitating business and leisure traffic between the two countries and beyond,” he said.

Kenyan officials say that 1.1 million tourists arrived in the country in 2010 via air and sea ports, while 600,000 crossed the land borders, allowing earnings to shoot up by around 18 per cent.

National parks and game preserves, the Great Rift Valley, coffee plantations, views of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and beaches along the Indian Ocean remain top attractions.

However, the government wants the private sector to start acting as stakeholders in the tourism industry.

On July 7, Tourism Minister Najib Balala said the government was keen to work closely with the private sector in developing tourism and called for feasibility studies to allow for further investments and diversification in the tourism sector.

Under a comprehensive new policy, a government tourism bill aims to boost visitor numbers to three million and foster diversified investment into the sector, especially that many investors opt for the coastal region and the game and national reserves that are more frequented by tourists.

“Tourism is so significant that it is considered as one of the six pillars of the 2030 Vision,” Ndegwa said in his office overlooking central Nairobi, the sprawling capital where old and new co-exist without clashes.

Ndegwa said that the re-launch of Gulf Air flights linking Kenya with Bahrain and well beyond in the region and internationally would be a great addition to tourism.

“We have a diverse range of tourism product that would cater to all tourists. It is a whole totality of tourism,” he said. “We have so many game parks, rich flora and fauna, the second highest mountain in Africa, natural parks, pristine beaches, rich coral reef and many other attractions,” he said. “Kenya is a rich reservoir of cultures. Nature and culture-based tourism are increasingly becoming more interesting to tourists and visitors and we are developing them as well. In fact, we are well aware that the global trend in future is that tourists want to travel to destinations that demonstrate responsible tourism both to the environment and to the communities around,” he said.

In December, Kenya beat South Africa and Egypt to clinch the “Best Destination for Eco-tourism” award in the Top Ten World Traveller Award held in Hong Kong. Eco-rating was introduced to the tourism industry in Kenya in 2006 following international outcry against environmental degradation and desertification.

Officials also point out that Kenya has made huge strides in the conference industry, saying that the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) has ranked Kenya as fourth in Africa’s best performing convention centres after South Africa, Egypt and Morocco.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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