Nairobi. The ninth edition of East Africa’s leading travel expo, Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) kicked off yesterday at Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi that has attracted over 200 exhibitors from Africa who are meeting 150 global buyers from 25 key source markets.
The three day expo will present an opportunity to access a gathering of East Africa’s tourism leaders, policy makers, leading tourism products and global media.
Mr Najib Balala, Kenya’s Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife in the opening ceremony of MKTE said that the presence of over 130 hosted buyers is a positive indication of their readiness to sell the destination to all visitors within their networks.
“To sustain our growth in the tourism sector, the government has refocused on areas of safety and security, infrastructure improvement, as well as sustained market on source markets to increase destination safaris,” he said. “Due to these efforts of heightened security, we have received several high profile personalities and this shows that the country is safe and the world is confident with Kenya. With this, we are optimistic that Kenya will at least achieve 10 per cent growth in tourism this year.”
Cruise tourism is growing globally and Kenya wants to tap into this sector. On this note, Hon Balala said, “Cruise tourism is growing globally and Kenya wants to tap into this sector.
Kenya is almost completing the construction of the cruise terminal in Mombasa. The government has invested there and is now going to be ready by end of this year. It is going to open better businesses in the country and East Africa will be competing with the rest of the cruise businesses.”
The biggest segment that is growing very fast is the cruise tourism and according to Hon Balala around 76 million people use cruise lines every year. “Let’s ask ourselves, how many people come to Africa? People go to the Mediterranean, Asia and so forth but how many people come to Africa?”
Mr. Balala believes that there is a need to tighten the Indian Ocean Circuit – Capetown, Durban, Madagascar, Maputo, Beira, Zanzibar, Seychelles, Mauritus and Mombasa.
“What follows next is facilities – I know Capetown has a good facility and so does Mauritius – so we Kenya decided to invest in that facility.
But to boost this, it’s not Mombasa alone – Zanzibar has to work well, Durban has to work well and these are the Indian Ocean points we need to coordinate them well and more importantly sit down and talk about Indian Ocean security for this business to thrive and boost tourism in these circuits.”
While Kenya aims at boosting its number of visitors in the country, they are also finding balance to conserve the country’s heritage and charm. Mama Ngina waterfront, an initiative of tourism ministry is another beautification project aimed at reviving and promoting the rich Swahili culture in the coast and is said to open this month on heroes day.
The expo has attracted a large number of Tanzanian exhibitors including the Tanzania Tourism Board. Sameer Ismail, Director of Wellworth Group of Companies from Tanzania tells The Citizen that this is the fourth year consecutively that they have been exhibiting their product at MKTE and every year they have seen positive growth in the number of buyers at the expo.
“Definitely this is a better platform to network, meet and close deals with buyers from all over the world.” In fact I was just speaking to one of the buyer and he confessed that this expo is much friendlier in terms of meeting and exploring various products that East Africa has to offer.” (NMG)