Kenya’s tourism industry has earned $470 million in the last six months and is projected to bring in one billion dollars by the end of 2016, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has said.
“Our focus is full recovery by June 2018,” Balala said of the sector that has faced serious challenges in the last few years. Visitor numbers and earnings tanked following travel advisories by western countries as a result of terror attacks on Kenyan soil by the Somali al Shabaab militant group.
Figures show tourism has recorded a 14 per cent growth since the beginning of the year.
Balala said the Kenyan government is focusing on improving security; infrastructure; and marketing to invigorate the industry.
A total of one billion dollars has been pumped in infrastructure development in the country’s coast region alone.
The budget for tourism marketing and promotion has doubled from $6 million to $15 million this year.
To promote Kenya as an appealing and affordable destination, the government has introduced incentives including the waiver of visa fees for children under 16 years; reduction of park entry fees; exemption of duty on all construction materials for renovation in the tourism sector; and removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) on service charge to employees.
There are also plans to establish a tourism promotion and development fund to inject funds for promotion and development into the sector.
To handle crises in the industry, Balala added that a crisis management centre has already been established with plans to set up a tourism protection centre in the near future.
It is also hoped that mining tourism will help in diversifying the sector.
A cruise ship terminal in Mombasa is expected to be ready by August 2017. “Many cruise ships have expressed interest to come to Kenya. The terminal will be useful in developing that segment of tourism,” he said.
Balala was speaking at the Tourism Summit at State House, Mombasa which brought together various stakeholders to explore ways to boost the growth of the once very lucrative industry.