|30 Nov -0001|
The ongoing East African Community (EAC) integration efforts will boost tourists arrivals into Kenya, a government official said on Wednesday.
Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director Murithi Ndegwa said told journalists in Nairobi that relaxed immigration rules will result in more Ugandans, Rwandan visiting Kenya.
‘We are expecting the number of incoming tourists from the EAC to increase as a result of regional integration efforts,’ Ndegwa said during the preparations for the 23rd edition of the International Maralal Camel Derby.
The event, which has attracted participants from 16 different countries, will take place from Aug. 30 –Sept. 1 in northern Kenya.
Beginning January 2014, Kenya, Uganda and Rwandese nationals will be permitted to travel into each other countries by using their identity cards. The EAC is also in the final stages of implementing a single visa for the five member states.
KTB said that growth rates of tourists from the EAC are growing faster than that of traditional sources markets in the west.
‘We have therefore set a target of at least two percent annual growth for tourists from both domestic and the EAC member states,’ he said. The managing director said that the number of domestic tourists in Kenya is also increasing.
‘Last year, they accounted for 43 percent of all bed nights in Kenya,’ he said. According to Ndgewa, the expanding economy has resulted in a middle class that has high disposal income.
‘Kenyans are now more aware of tourism, which was once the preserve of foreign tourists. The local tourists play an important role in stabilizing the tourism sector that is heavily dependent on international arrivals,’ he said.
KTB noted that military interventions along the Indian Ocean coastline have impacted positively on Kenya’s cruise industry.
‘Piracy has reduced dramatically and this has led to an increase in the number of tourists calling on Kenya’s port of Mombasa,’ he said.
Samburu County Deputy Governor Joseph Lemarkat said that the camel derby will be an opportunity to open up Kenya’s northern region for tourism and other economic investments.
‘It will also forge peace and harmony amongst the conflict prone pastoral communities living in the area,’ he said.
Lemarkat noted that another aim of the race is to encourage locals to appreciate and participate in the tourism and conservation sectors.
According to the deputy governor, Kenya’s northern region has a rich cultural heritage.
‘We are therefore encouraging the business community to invest in the tourism and real estate sectors of the county,’ he said.