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Pomp, colour as tourism conference kicks off

Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu

Colourful scenes marked the official opening of the 79th Skal International Congress in Mombasa yesterday, as a high-powered delegation from 37 nations attended the first-ever Skal congress to be held on African soil.

National flags from the represented countries were flown around spectacularly as delegates erupted in echoes of cheers and applause.

Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala told the delegates that Kenya’s tourism has “rebounded, with increase in arrivals and revenue.”

While envisioning that Kenya expects to clinch 2.5 million arrivals come 2022, the CS said in 2017, arrivals to Kenya stood at 1.45 million up from 1.33 million visitors in 2016. “This was actually the highest number of visitors the country had received in four years,” said Balala.

He pointed that projections from World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), indicate that Kenya’s travel and tourism industry is responsible for 15.3 per cent of total exports and 8.9 per cent of total employment.

“It is also a sector that WTTC predicts will continue to grow at six per cent per annum over the coming decade. With your partnership and support, we anticipate that we shall do better this year and the years to come.

We actually expect to receive up to 2.5 million visitors by 2022,” said the CS who was addressing the delegates during the opening of the international congress yesterday.

The CS further reckoned that with more direct flights coming to Kenya predominantly to the beach destination, the future of tourism in the country sounds even promising.

Next week, Balala said TUI will start two direct flights from Amsterdam and Brussels to Mombasa while additional flights will soon be started from TUI Poland and TUI London next year.

Skal International president Susanna Saari challenged the delegates to focus on sustainable tourism saying the sector can be part of solution to climate change. She said Kenya can be one of the leading nations in terms of sustainable tourism.

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