The East African region is set to attract more tourists following proposals to have a joint tourist visa.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Friday that Kenya is working with its neighbours to come up with a single visa that would enable tourists to visit all the five East African Community member states.
“We are also working on a joint marketing strategy so that as we sell Kenya as a tourist destination, we will also be selling all the attractions that the region has to offer,” President Kenyatta said.
The President was speaking at Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) when he opened the 3rd edition of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo.
More than 150 companies from all parts of the world were represented at the tourism exposition.
The President underscored the importance of tourism, saying it generates around 12 per cent of Kenya’s gross domestic product and accounts for about 9 per cent of the country’s total formal employment.
He said his administration is focused on enhancing the country’s competitiveness in the sector to increase the number of tourists visiting Kenya every year.
“Specifically, we have committed to promote Kenya as a destination, rather than stop-over, and to attract at least three million tourists annually,” he said.
The President called for additional investment in hotel and other tourism-related infrastructure as Government scales up interconnectivity through port, rail, road and infrastructure.
He singled out the ongoing expansion of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the opening of the expanded Kisumu Airport as some of the initiatives to increase the country’s capacity to receive more visitors.
“Airstrips in our major safari destinations have also been refurbished. As a result, the tourists will soon be able to traverse Magical Kenya with ease and in a manner that enables them to optimise their safari experience,” he said.
He assured the Kenya tourism Board of increased budgetary allocation to enable it to promote a diversified range of domestic destinations.
The President also said his administration has put in place measures to counter terrorism and other security threats.
He said the Government is vigilant and has embarked on heavy investment in security to ensure the safety of Kenyans and tourists.
“We are vigilant and are effectively countering all security threats to keep Kenya safe. We are investing heavily in our security to protect the whole country,” he said.
President Kenyatta said the Government will continue to mobilise international support to fight terrorism.
He urged international partners to desist from issuing travel advisories which compounded the negative impact of terrorism.
To protect the country’s wildlife, the President said intensive lobbying is ongoing to stop the trade in poached animal products including ivory and rhino horn.
He said the illegal trade was decimating wildlife populations and compromising the region’s competitive advantage.