Tourism Tattler asked the Kenya Tourism Board’s Managing Director Murithi Ndegwa, for a couple of bullet points on the countries prospects as a tourist destination. We got more than we expected:
Q: What is the impact of the recent Westgate attacks and how has it impacted on tourism?
- Kenya has not recorded immediate impact on the unfortunate incident and we continue to reassure our visitors that security measures have been put in place.
- The unfortunate incident is a global phenomenon, the world is grappling with and Kenya is not exceptional and therefore we appeal on the international community to join us in the war against terrorists.
- We are aware of travel advisories issued by countries such as UK, US, and Germany largely advising their nationals to be on high alert should they choose to travel to Kenya.
- It is good to note that the revision of the advisory is targeted to specific and suspected hot spot areas in the country which are not within our tourist attractions such as National Parks and National Reserves, heritage among other attractions.
- In a way the advisories are not wholesomely warning tourist from visiting Kenya, but rather on their need to be cautious in areas suspected to be prone or targeted by the terrorists.
- The government will continue to re-assure our tourists on the safety measures put in place to make their stay in the country comfortable.
- Further we shall continue lobbying the international community government not to issue travel advisories.
Q: Which areas is Kenya focusing on to rebuild the confidence of destination in the wake of the recent reported insecurity incidences?
- Key global events have continued to put Kenya on the global map and thus boosting country’s brand equity.
- In the month of September (24th to 27th ), Keya hosted two key events that brought together over 500 delegates across the globe; the African Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) and the Eco Tourism & Sustainable Tourism (ESTC) Conferences.
- Over 40 countries were represented by close to 500 delegates for both events attended, a sign of resilience and confidence our visitors have on Kenya as a destination.
- On 18th to 20th October 2013, the tourism industry also hosted trade and travel agents from close to 30 countries representatives during the 3rd edition of the Magical Kenya Tourism Expo (MKTE) at Safari Park Hotel.
- On 16th October 2013 Kenya played host to the World Travel Awards (WTA) – Africa Category to recognize performers in travel and hospitality industry.
- On November 3, 2013, Kenya’s opportunity to tap into Astro-tourism was showcased during a total solar eclipse which will be passing Kenya, one of the major events on the global tourist scene. The sighting of the total solar eclipse was at Sibiloi National Park in Turkana and I confirm that over 500 international visitors have booked for the event which will attract thousands of people.
Q: Are tourists assured of security while sampling tourism products?
Safety while sampling our diverse tourism products is guaranteed;
- Kenya Tourism Federation Safety and Communication Center (KTF-SCC) is the premier tourist safety and security communication management center in Kenya. It is operational 24/7 all year, manned by professional staff who provide necessary assistance to tourists and tourism stakeholders in cases of emergency.
- To communicate effectively with tourists and industry operators on the ground throughout the country, the KTF-SCC is equipped with VHF Radio equipment, which enables communication with the ground even where there is no telephone network coverage. Other communication equipment used by KTF-SCC includes telephones and email, details of which are available on the KTF-SCC website at www.kenyatourism.or.ke.
- The new tourism act mandates the ministry of Tourism to spear head the crisis communication centre through collating all information coming in during the elections from various hot spots, packaging and sharing the same with the industry stakeholders.
Q: What are some of the existing tourism investment opportunities in Kenya?
The government in a bid to attract investment opportunities in the sector is working towards the following;
- Providing incentives to encourage investment in tourist accommodation to increase hotel bed capacity across the country.
- Introducing incentives diversify products and improve other infrastructure requirements to encourage such investments that will attract high-value tourism such as business conferences, sports tourism and medical tourism.
Kenya is keen on expanding her accommodation facilities to go in tandem with the increasing number of tourists. Within the last one year, the following hotels are opening up in the Capital city on Nairobi :
- Kempinski Villa Rosa
- The Boma
- Eastland Hotel
- Soluxe Club
- Hemmingways Boutique Hotel Nairobi
- Best Western
The upcoming Hotels in the city include:
- Riverside Hotel
- Radisson Blu
Investment opportunities exist in our tourist resort cities within Vision 2030 and Lamu port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project to be developed in Turkana, Diani, Lamu, Kilifi and Isiolo.
There are opportunities to develop lodges, tented camps, campsites, lodges and eco-lodges. These are within our national parks and reserves under the Kenya Wildlife Services. For more information on existing investment opportunities visit www.vision2030.go.ke and www.kws.go.ke.
Q: How far is the construction of JKIA and other infrastructure (roads and airport/airstrips)?
- The recent fire at JKIA that saw restoration of operations within hours has not threatened the airport as a key hub in Africa.
- Terminal 4 which is under construction is set to accommodate 2.5 more million passengers on completion.
- Kisumu International airport which opens up the western tourism circuit has just been opened and direct flights to the region are being recorded.
- Further, airstrips especially to Maasai Mara and other safari destinations within the country have been improved.
- The government has commissioned the construction of Isiolo International Airport to handle heavy commercial flights and open up the northern part of the country to tourism and other economic benefits.
- The new Thika Super highway has made travel to the Northern, Central and Eastern parts of the country very accessible. Some of these areas hold key tourist products hence the trip on this road very enjoyable and which is also very scenic.
- The road connecting Samburu (on Mombasa road) and Kwale is now motorable for those driving to Diani and would be able to avoid Mombasa and Likoni ferry. Roads to National parks are constantly being improved. Road circuits in national parks are graded regularly to make them passable.
- Airstrips are also maintained and a number of them are paved. Vegetation around the airstrips is kept low to ensure safety of users of these airstrips.
Q: Apart from Safari and beach which Kenya is known for, what other tourism products are on offer?
Kenya has diverse tourism products to offer besides the beach and wildlife safari the country is known for. The products include and not limited to:
- Conference tourism
- Birding , etc.
The diversity in product offering is as per the various tourism circuits cutting across the country.
Q: Poaching in Kenya is becoming a phenomenon, how is it being handled?
Poaching is a global problem not restricted to Kenya alone. KWS has moved all out to stop the poaching menace. This year the poaching level is lower than that experienced last year. We have so far lost 246 elephants and 45 rhinos to poaching. We are working round the clock to safeguard our wildlife heritage.
- In dealing with the problem, we have deployed more resources including rangers to combat poaching. We have also embraced technology in the monitoring of our populations especially those of threatened species. Poachers are increasingly using technology to better their chances of success and to match and out-do them; we have embarked on an ambitious program of force modernization. This includes giving rangers cutting edge training, equipping them with superior hardware and tools as well as giving them the necessary motivation. In general, we have put in place the following mitigating measures;
- Promotion of alternative income of communities living around game parks and wildlife reserves to ensure they are not a threat to natural habitats and expand the system of direct benefits to locals to include National Parks.
- Increase Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) capacity by introducing an air unit, provision of proper equipment and competitive perks for KWS rangers.
- Introduction robot decoys by 2015 as a pilot program to curb poaching. Design and introduce an elaborate KWS-based intelligence network to monitor animals, deter intrusion and stop threats to parks.
- Lobby internationally to stop trade on ivory and other products of poaching.
- The First Lady, Her Excellency, Margaret Kenyatta is leading wildlife campaigns in the country aimed at raising the awareness especially to protect the elephant.
Human wildlife conflicts have been minimized through:
- Enhanced awareness, among the communities along the parks, national reserves and sanctuaries on how to co-exist with wildlife.
- Strengthened Corporate Social Responsibility by partners/stakeholders in the wildlife management with the local communities, and community initiatives for provision of water, health facilities and education through construction and upgrading of school infrastructure.
- Erection of electric fence in some of the national parks and reserves that have reported cases of human-wildlife conflicts. Fencing of a1400km stretch is already in place.
- The government is considering allowing trained and vetted community rangers carry firearms to help secure wildlife outside protected areas to tame incidents of poaching.
- KWS and Community rangers conduct joint patrols that guarantee a force multiplier in wildlife security operations.
- Private sanctuaries e.g. Ol Pejeta in Laikipia has introduced drone manning of its reserve to tame poaching.
- The on – going elephant census jointly with other East African Country is a key step towards joint conservation .
- Rangers have undergone training on the use of the equipment.
- Compensation for the people killed or injured by wild animals is promptly done to avoid a repulse from the communities.
- The new wildlife Bill has enhanced the compensation levels and has introduced compensation for crop damage,livestock predation and property damage.
Q: How has Kenya improved on beach products to compete well with other beach destinations?
- A beach management pilot programme championed by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has been put in place.
- Tourists along Kenya’s coastal beaches now have a new lease of life- they can enjoy sun-bathing laced with relieving breeze from the beach.
- The Kenya government has increased the number of tourist police in key tourist areas among them the Kenyan coast, Samburu and the Maasai Mara among others
- Kenya’s Watamu and Diani beaches were last year voted the Second and third best beaches of the 25 top beaches in Africa by CNN Travel.
- It has since seen to the initiation of frequent patrols, daily beach clean-up exercise and reorganization of beach vendors making the beach friendly to tourists.
- The success of this programme has been witnessed with hoteliers along the beach putting up sun beds along the beach adjacent to their properties, introducing full waiter services to enable clients get served at the beach.
- The programme aims at restoring the competitive edge of Kenya’s coastal area as a tourism destination while ensuring that the marine and beach tourism products are sustained.
Q: What gives Kenya competitive edge over other African Countries?
- Product diversity/authentic product offering
- Warmth of the Kenyan people Accessibility to tourism products and well established tourism infrastructure
- All- round conducive weather
- Confidence on Kenya as a destination
- Professional industry with high quality service.