Kenya has recorded a sharp increase in the number of tourists over the last five months, following an aggressive campaign to help the sector recover from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary (CS), Peninah Malonza, said the number grew from 870,000 in October 2022 to 1,487,000 in March 2023, adding that the figure was expected to triple over the next two years.
“My work is to bring numbers and within the five months I have been in office we have been able to boost the numbers by 600, 000,” she said.
Through various interventions, the CS said the Ministry has projected to grow the numbers to 5.5 million by the year 2025 to shore-up revenues from the sector.
To achieve the target, the CS said the government has rolled out an elaborate plan to diversify tourism products across the country to woo international and domestic visitors.
Speaking Friday during the official opening of the Fish Fiesta 2023 festival in Kisumu, Malonza said the Ministry was reviewing the Tourism Policy to open up more avenues to grow the sector.
Kenya has been sold by the beach and wildlife. Now it’s time to move from the beach and parks to promote other areas such as the Lake Victoria and other inland lakes across the country, she added.
The government was also exploring opportunities in adventure tourism, culinary tourism, gastronomy, cultural tourism, education tourism, medical tourism, conference tourism, agro-tourism and leisure tourism.
At the same time, through partnership with the Council of Governors (COG), plans were underway to develop unique products in the new areas to boost tourism across the country.
“We are in talks with the Council of Governors over this and the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), will pick this up and help the county governments, to market these products,” she said.
This, she added, was urgent to ensure that tourism benefits are spread across the country to boost revenue and create job opportunities for the youth.
“When we get to 5.5 million visitors, Mombasa alone cannot handle this number. That is why we are looking at Kisumu and other areas,” she said.
The Fish Fiesta 2023, which is a flagship product to market Kisumu as a tourist destination is set to open up the Western Tourism Circuit, with more visitors expected to visit key attractions in the area.
The CS noted that Kisumu was important in the country’s tourism agenda, adding that the National government will work hand in hand with the County government to promote various products and attraction sites in the area.
Besides promoting Lake Victoria as a key attraction site, the government was equally exploring possibilities of introducing a luxury cruise ship from Kisumu to Kampala to connect the two cities and woo visitors from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
This coupled with direct flights from Kisumu to Mombasa will enhance seamless flow of visitors through Kisumu to Mombasa, further opening-up the Western Tourism Circuit.
Other programs, added Malonza, included reviving marine transport and marketing Impala Sanctuary and Ndere Island National Park to complement efforts by the government to promote tourism.
Kisumu Deputy Governor, Dr. Mathew Owili, urged the National government to allocate funds for the completion of the Afri-Cities Conference Center in Mamboleo which has stalled.
The Sh.1.2 billion 6, 000 capacity Convention Center was to host last year’s Afri-Cities Conference, which was held in Kisumu, but the contractor abandoned the site citing nonpayment.
Dr. Owili said the County government had embarked on an aggressive campaign to market Lake Victoria as a key attraction site.
The campaign dubbed, Kisumu My Pride, targets to reposition the lake and Kisumu as a whole as a tourists’ hub.
However, Lake Victoria was faced by many challenges among them plastic pollution, but the Deputy governor noted that the renewed focus was also set to save the lake, which is a source of livelihood for millions of Kenyans.
The Fish Fiesta 2023, which ends on Sunday will see visitors treated to various exhibitions on the Traditional Luo culture and music, boat racing, tug of war and the search for Mr. and Miss Tourism, Mr. Flex, Mr. Strong among others.
The cookery event has drawn participants from all the Sub counties in Kisumu.
By Chris Mahandara