Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu
Delegates attending the ongoing 79th Skal World Congress in Mombasa see a brighter future for Kenya’s tourism in terms of arrivals especially with the much-awaited launch of direct flights from Nairobi to New York in United States later this month.
The delegates, majority of who were on their maiden visit to the country, hailed Kenya as unique and irresistible destination for any international visitor, adding that with innovation and investing more on the tourism, the sector is likely to reach greater heights.
The four-day conference has attracted more than 500 tourism and hospitality agents across the globe and is expected to be officially opened today by Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.
United States’ New York chapter Skal International Vice President Iris Salazar said the direct flights between New York and Nairobi will make travelling between the two country’s easy and convenient. This, she said, would boost arrivals of visitors from US to come and “sample the wonders of magical Kenya.”
“I am telling my fellow Americans to come to this country and learn so much, enjoy the culture, the wonderful and friendly people. Kenya has the friendliest people, they are very hospitable and that is why Kenya is so close to my heart, Salazar added.
“It is extremely safe here… coming to Kenya you don’t need to be subjected to litany of vaccinations, you only need mosquito repellents and you are good to go,” she said in an interview with People Daily yesterday.
On her part, Croatia Skal International President, Irena Persic, lauded Kenya’s approach in marketing itself as a tourism destination, envisioning that there would be more and more arrivals of tourists from Croatia in future.
“I know Kenya is a very interesting country and it is well known in Croatia, there are tourists from Croatia who visit Kenya because the country is doing very well on its promotion of tourism,” Persic who is on her maiden tour to Kenya.
She expressed hope they would have more and more tourists coming over from Croatia in future, adding: “That is why we are here. Obviously we will spread the wonderful news about Kenya in Croatia”.
Persic said it must be a wonderful blessing with such a big event coming to Kenya, because many of the visitors would widely share photos and good stories about the country, adding that at the end of the day, it would be a great publicity for the country.
She said part of the reason of attending the congress is to learn because as Croatia also yearns to host the next congress.
At the same time, she advised Kenya to take advantage of the sporting talents in the country and invest in sports tourism, saying so much has changed in Croatia’s tourism industry after the country’s recent success in the Fifa World Cup where it emerged second best after reaching the finals in Russia.
Persic said a lot of people are talking about Croatia after the country reached the finals in the World Cup followed by soccer star Luka Modric being awarded as the player of the year and the player of the tournament.
“The nation is increasingly becoming famous and this is why we are donning the popular soccer red and white jersey…sports can be a very effective tourism marketing tool and it is important to invest more in sports,” she added.
Skål is a professional organisation of tourism leaders around the world. It is headquartered in Spain, and is holding the global tourism event in Africa for the first time since its establishment in 1934. The conference further comes as a major boost to the tourism sector along Kenya’s coast, besides being an endorsement of the destination as safe for tourism business.
Kenya received ratification at the 78th Skål International World Congress in Hyderabad, India on October 7, 2017 to host the Skål International World Congress 2018 in Mombasa after it was cancelled in 2015 due to insecurity.
Statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicate robust growth in accommodation and food service activities in the first quarter of 2018 but comparably slower than the level realised in the corresponding quarter of last year.
During the quarter, the sector is estimated to have expanded by 13.5 per cent compared to 24.5 per cent growth recorded in the first quarter of 2017, which was mainly on account of a rebound experienced in that quarter.
“The sector’s performance is stabilising following reform initiatives, restored security and investment opportunities in the sector,” KNBS data states. During the review period, accommodation activities greatly improved, evidenced by the increase in the hotel occupancy level.