British and French envoys on Wednesday joined Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala at a hoteliers' symposium and assured international tourists that the country is safe for holidays ahead of the high season next month.
The European envoys made the remarks at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort in Mombasa on Wednesday during a Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) annual symposium.
British High Commissioner Nic Hailey said his government lifted travel advisories against Mombasa and other coastal towns because the country had addressed security concerns across the country.
Mr Hailey said the UK was supporting Kenya’s efforts to revive tourism by encouraging British tourists to come to the country for leisure and safari.
“We want to see more British tourists coming to Kenya to help create jobs, economic growth and alleviating poverty in local tourist circuits,” he said.
For his part, French Ambassador Remi Marechaux also applauded the Kenyan government for addressing security concerns in the country, citing it as the main reason his country revised travel advice against Mombasa and other coastal towns.
Mr Marechaux added that the French Embassy had recommended a review of travel advice against Lamu following the Kenyan government's efforts to address threats from Al-Shabaab.
He said France would support Kenya’s efforts to woo more holidaymakers from the European country following improved security in the country.
Mr Balala said the government's Sh300 billion security investment to shore up its borders and improve internal security had brought gains, leading to peace and tranquility in the country in the last year.
Mr Balala explained that security across the country had significantly improved after the government invested heavily in equipping the police and the Kenya Defence Forces to combat terrorism threats from the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab.
As a result of the improved security, he said, the UK, the US and France lifted travel advisories against Mombasa and other coastal towns, bringing hope to tourism revival efforts.
The CS said due to calm enjoyed at the Coast, more international tourists are expected to visit the region during the high season, which begins next month.
Mr Balala added that the government’s Sh1.2 billion in incentives were bearing fruit after a German holiday airline, Condor, commenced flights from Munich to Mombasa on Wednesday.
“In March, we were in Germany, where we had talks with Condor executives about the government’s incentives and that the country is safe.
“I am glad that Condor has now introduced flights from Munich to Mombasa and that from next week they will operate two flights a week from Frankfurt to Mombasa,” said Mr Balala.
More European chartered airlines, including several from Italy, are expected to resume flights to Mombasa, Mr Balala said, bringing more visitors to the country.
LOWER PARK ENTRY FEES
A charter airline from Poland, he said, is also expected to introduce flights from Warsaw to Mombasa beginning July.
“We expect tourism at the Coast to rebound next month when more charter airlines resume flights to Mombasa,” he said.
The CS added that he expects more international tourists to visit the country from Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain following marketing campaigns by the Ministry of Tourism and the Kenya Tourism Board.
Mr Balala thanked the British and French governments for supporting Kenya through the lifting of travel advisories and marketing campaigns.
Moreover, the Tourism minister said the country expects more international tourists to jet into the country between December this year and next year after the government waived Value Added Tax on park entry fees.
The government’s reduction of park entry fees from Sh9,000 per visitor to Sh6,000 and the visa fees waiver for children below 16 years of age, he added, were among the incentives attracting more tourists to the country.
“I am happy that the government has addressed almost all the challenges which were raised in the Tourism Recovery Task Force, thereby creating an enabling environment for tourism to grow,” he said.
KAHC chairman Jaideep Vohra thanked the government for waiving VAT on park entry fees and commission earned by tour operators.
He also supported the government’s move to earmark Sh4.5 billion for tourism promotion, adding that the funds would enable Kenya Tourism Board to market the destination widely in overseas markets.
The symposium drew tourism stakeholders from across the country.
(Editing by Joel Muinde and Henry Gekonde)