Counties have been urged to diversify their unique tourism products and tap into cultural tourism as a key component for tourism development.
Tourism Principal Secretary (PS) Safina Kwekwe underscored the need to identify and preserve the rich cultural and heritage attraction sites found in the 47 counties for posterity.
The PS said the national government is determined to enhance the country’s stature as a tourism and cultural destination of choice.
“Harnessing the vast cultural heritage for tourism development can earn the counties substantial revenue,” she noted.
She said cultural initiatives such as annual festivals would help develop Kenya into one of the world’s top tourism hubs.
Kwekwe said the counties should push for new tourist destinations and shift focus on heritage sites within their areas of jurisdiction.
Speaking in Kwale on Monday while on a tour of local heritage sites, the PS said cultural tourism, in the long run, would ‘safeguard heritage and spread tourism’s socio-economic benefit to the communities’.
Kwekwe said in an effort to give a practical boost to tourism, the devolved units should organize periodic unique cultural festivals as counties have highly diversified cultural heritage embodying people’s traditions, religion, belief systems, festivals, and ceremonies.
She said cultural tourism is a huge opportunity and a growing trend adding that promoting Kenya’s rich cultural heritage would improve the country’s position amongst ‘heritage destinations globally’.
She said there is need to diversify from the traditional wildlife and beach tourism into cultural tourism as a ‘step in boosting both domestic and inbound tourism’.
The PS said cultural tourism is very popular in many destinations around the globe but still somewhat nascent in Africa observing that culture and tourism are powerful tools for socio-economic empowerment.
Kwekwe said cultural attractions abound in the coast region saying the Diani beach destination in Kwale has a lot of complimentary attractions to it.
She cited Kilibasi village about 80 km away from the shoreline which is home to rich cultural heritage of the Watta, Aduruma, Akamba, and Maasai communities.
She said Kilibasi boasts of the iconic caves of the Watta, cultural centre and villages, water pans carved on rocks and Kilibasi hills that could host spectacular nature rails providing a rich package and great experience.
She said some physical representations of cultural heritage included shrines, smelting furnaces, arts and crafts, pottery making, traditional foods and drinks but the inability to transform them into tourism assets has been a major concern to stakeholders.
On his part, Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya acknowledged the need to tap into cultural tourism to boost the socio-economic and cultural values of the local people.
Mvurya said recently the county hosted the Chenda Chenda cultural festival with the view of promoting the culture of the people of Mijikenda.
He said Chenda Chenda festival was aimed at harnessing the potential of the region to generate employment and ultimately make coast region a vibrant destination for tourism.
The county boss said the cultural programme would showcase the rich cultural heritage of the county to the national and world market and harness the talents of the people to build an art and cultural economy that could support the county in all spheres.
By Hussein Abdullahi