The Western tourism circuit is experiencing an upsurge in the number of visitors since the upgrading of Kisumu International Airport. (Read: Kibaki opens upgraded Kisumu Airport)
The region’s tourism fortunes have also been boosted by new hotels, upgraded tourist sites, new colleges offering tourism and hospitality courses and the construction of a highway joining the airport to the Kisumu-Nairobi Road.
Kisumu, being the centre of the tourism circuit, has overwhelming number of tourists flocking to the town and other destinations around it.
According to Lake Victoria Tourism Association CEO Antony Ochieng’, conference tourism is the major attraction of many visitors who end up touring the sites for leisure.
“Most tourists visit Kisumu on student exchange programmes, research purposes and to attend conferences. Eventually, the tourists are attracted to the sites around and book with us,” said Mr Ochieng’.
He added that increased number of tourists in the region is reflected by the increase in bed capacity in Kisumu by 41 per cent from 213,200 bed nights in 2009 to 301,200 bed nights in 2010.
Statistics at the LVTA offices show that Western region recorded 14 per cent increase to 364,100 bed nights in 2010 compared to 319, 00 in 2009.
In late August, a visit by dignitaries saw all the major hotels in Kisumu full, from Park View, Imperial Hotel, Kisumu Hotel to Sunset Hotel.
“We ended up booking the dignitaries away from town owing to lack of space in the town centre,” Mr Ochieng’ said.
Mr Ochieng said that Kisumu is lacking in five star hotels although investors are coming in to remedy the situation. Compared to 2007 when Kisumu was termed a ghost town because of the destruction left behind by the post-election violence, the situation has improved and especially after Barack Obama was declared US president. (Read: Kisumu: Fast growth, but haunted by poll chaos)
“Kogelo, the US President Obama’s paternal home has become a major tourist attraction for people seeking to see where Obama’s father was born,” he said.
Kisumu airport manager Joseph Okumu said the airport has already received flights from Egypt, Nigeria and Tanzania.
“Three quarters of our passengers are tourists and foreigners prefer direct flights to Kisumu. Our passenger numbers have gone up by 20 per cent to 300,000 annually even though the capacity is of 600,000,” Mr Okumu said.