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Kenya to showcase tourism products, urges calm amid poll anxiety


19:44, March 05, 2013

NAIROBI, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Tuesday appealed for calm during the country's historic election process as the industry stakeholders plans to travel to Germany to showcase the country's rich diversity of tourism products.

The Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary Ruth S. Solitei said the East African nation will be among the 11,163 exhibitors from all over the world showcasing her tourism products at the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin.

"This is a timely opportunity for the country to assert itself as a safe tourist destination after the March 4 general elections. We look forward to sharing the good news of successful and peaceful elections when we address the press on March 8 in a pre - planned press opportunity where we shall address the international media," Solitei said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

She said there will be 41 exhibitors from the travel and hotel industry players as well as related government agencies led by the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) are expected to participate in ITB, the largest travel show in the world which is scheduled to take place from March 6-10.

"As Kenyans, the world is looking up at us to uphold peace during and after the polls. Peaceful elections will be a manifestation of our strength in diversity and will re-affirm the confidence our tourists have on Kenya as a tourist destination," Solitei said.

She said the tourism industry is very dynamic and international fairs such as elections provides the country with an opportunity to benchmark with the best practices, from the best travel and tourism companies in the world.

"This is a key strategy that KTB continues to use in order to grow Kenya's market share of tourists from all over the world," she said.

Tourism players had already rolled out plans to manage any crisis that could emerge during and after elections by placing some of their people on the ground in areas considered to be flash point areas to give updates in case of any changes to security situation so that tour operators can re-route visitors.

As a result of the 2007/2008 post election violence, earnings for the industry dropped by over 50 percent in first quarter 2008 from 200 million U.S. dollars to 92 million dollars as foreign visitors were hesitant to tour the country as a result of insecurity.

The tourism sector's contribution to employment generation has grown by about 3 percent annually and earnings per employee have been growing by 18 percent over the last five years, according to statistics from the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA).

Solitei said Germany remains among the top five tourist source markets for Kenya and has been resilient compared to other markets in Western European countries in terms of consistently sending tourists to the country.

She said the performance in the tourism industry in the past has been affected by challenges such as Euro zone crisis and isolated incidences of insecurity, but the win against the war on Al-Shabaab through the conquering of Kismayu reassured the world that Kenya is a safe destination.

"Indeed, cruise tourism has improved in the last three months with three vessels docking in the Port of Mombassa and one anchoring in Lamu with tourists mainly from Europe," Solitei said.

To build on these recent gains, Solitei said Kenya will this year host the renowned World Travel Awards, the Magical Kenya Travel Expo where KTB will take lead as well as the International Eco Tourism conference and the Africa Hotel Investment (AHIF) conferences slated for September.

She said the four events will attract various tourism stakeholders and we expect that they will give Kenya a competitive edge to further market herself as a preferred tourism destination.

"It is in this regard that we are calling upon all Kenyans to take personal responsibility in maintaining peace during the elections as peace is a key cornerstone of development," she said.

"Tourism is a key contributor to Kenya's GDP and along with other sectors in the economy cannot afford to be interrupted by the possibility of any election related conflict," she added.

Kenya's tourism also suffered a decline in the number of tourists arriving since September 2011 when the Somali militant group, the Al-Shabaab, carried out the kidnappings of tourists in the Lamu archipelago and the kidnapping of the Spanish volunteers.

The country has witnessed several hit-and-run grenade attacks in recent months in the capital, Nairobi, and in northern Kenya and Mombasa port city.

The Kenyan authorities often blame such attacks on Al-Qaida- affiliated Al-Shabaab rebels from neighboring Somalia.

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