Kenya tourism sets record in 2010

Kenya’s overseas tourist arrivals hit a record 1,1-million in 2010, Tourism Minister Najib Balala said Monday, predicting sustained growth for the sector in 2011.

Last year was “the best year in Kenya’s tourism in relation to international arrivals by air and sea”, said a statement handed to reporters at a press conference in Nairobi.

Balala said 1,1-million foreign tourists visited Kenya in 2010, short of a 1,2-million target, but up from 950 000 in 2009 and slightly better than the previous record of 1,05-million attained in 2007.

“Last year we changed our strategy to open up new markets, and all these markets have done very well,” said Balala, explaining that Kenya’s efforts to woo emerging markets such as China, India and Russia had paid off.

He said earnings from tourism, Kenya’s top source of foreign currency, soared 18% in 2010 to reach $886 million dollars.

Cruise ship arrivals dropped drastically in 2010 due to the threat posed by Somali pirates, whose area of operations now stretches from the Somali coast to the Maldives and from the Arabian Sea to Madagascar.

But Balala said the future was bright for Kenyan tourism, which had also suffered from deadly post-election violence in 2007-08, and noted that the political turmoil in north Africa was an opportunity to be seized.

He said Kenya should “take advantage” of the unrest that will drive tourists away from the major tourist destinations of Egypt and Tunisia.

Balala, who has previously said he hoped the number of arrivals would reach three million by 2015, also admitted that the safari-dominated industry needed to diversify and emphasised that coastal areas were lagging behind.

“It is high time we give incentives to multinational chains who know how to run and manage hotels so that they can invest more,” he said. — Sapa-AFP

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