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Richard Quest commends Kenya’s strong service culture

CNN Business Traveller and news anchor says new KQ flights to New York will encourage more Americans to consider Kenya as a holiday destination

What has been your experience in Kenya so far versus your expectations?

The problem with this question is that if I say something nice then people will say;  “Well, he’s only been here a few days, what does he know?’

And if I say something uncomplimentary, like something about the traffic (jams), then people will say ‘how dare he? Who does he think he is?  I have heard people say that I am being paid to be nice.

The fact is, that I came here with relatively few expectations. I have travelled quite extensively across Africa, so I know how diverse this continent is. I have also read a lot about Kenya, interviewed many Kenyan business leaders and politicians, and spoken to colleagues who have reported from the country for years.

But I’ve been in this business long enough to know that nothing beats the first-hand experience, so I was keen to arrive with a blank slate.

What were you looking forward to seeing in Kenya?

With so much travel, it’s not often I get to go to a new country. So, I was looking forward to new experiences and getting under the skin of a place I simply don’t know very well.

I wanted to get a sense of how business works, see first-hand the innovations in mobile banking that I read about and meet and spend time with the people.

I also wanted see some of Kenya’s famous wildlife, and understand what makes Nairobi tick. I have not been disappointed. It’s been a fascinating week.

What are the popular Kenyan sites for Amercan tourists? Will KQ flights boost arrivals?

Kenya is a well-known tourist destination, with established attractions such as its parks and beaches, Mount Kenya and many golf courses. But until now, getting here from the US has meant flying via London, Paris or Amsterdam, or through the Gulf region. 

All options involved a long and arduous trip. The new daily non-stop flights from Nairobi to New York will put Kenya on the radar of people who were put off by the long journey before and encourage more Americans to consider this as a holiday destination.

What can the Kenya tourism industry learn from popular tourist destinations globally?

The best destinations around the world all get the basics right: they have good transport, a range of quality hotels at different price points, a strong service culture, that kind of thing. 

I have experienced first-hand the gentle friendliness of Kenyans all this week, so I know that the service culture here is strong. Accommodation is also improving, with new hotels being built.

Having sat in some truly epic traffic jams this week, I know, however, that transport still has a long way to go. Get that right and it will benefit tourism and business alike.

From your CNN Business Traveller experience, what are the trends in travel ?

People increasingly want to be travellers rather than tourists. They want experiences that go beyond the trophy photo and the selfie, something that gives them a story to tell and enriches their lives. Kenya should be well placed to take advantage of that.

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