Kenya: Balala Projects Tourism Sector to Grow By 20 Percent in 2016

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala projects the tourism sector to grow by 20 percent this year, on the back of investments made in 2015.

Balala says the investments are already bearing fruit as summer time is looking up compared to the previous year with bookings indicating a 30 percent increase.

He says in the first quarter of 2016, tourist arrivals have increased by 18 percent.

"Already we have confirmed there will be a new charter for the first time from Poland in the summer season; originally the Polish charters come only in winter and this is a new phenomenon," Balala explained.

He says going forward tourism product improvement will be vital pointing out that the newly established tourism research institute will be operationalised to foster this.

He was speaking after the first ever ministerial tourism stakeholders' round table.

Among the stakeholders included the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, Kenya Hotel Keepers and Caterers Association, Kenya Coffee Traders Association, Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurant Association, Kenya Tourism Association among others.

The meet resolved to look at the price of products and services citing that hotels and airlines were charging exorbitantly and therefore an impediment to travels both by locals and international tourists.

"There is need to review prices so as to attract and retain visitors we are losing to our competitors," he stated.

He says he will also relook the issue of tour operators being taxed VAT saying that making them expensive than their peers in the East African Region.

"This is the right time for us to contribute to the amendments that will be done in the finance bill during the budget day these are some of things we will fast track," he said.

In 2015 the sector's earning stood at Sh87 billion down from Sh93 billion recorded in 2014.

During the period a number of incentives were gazetted in a bid to boost the sector, these includes a waiver of visa fees for children under 16, waiver for landing fees for charter flights and reduction of park fees from $90 to $60.

Also in 2015, Kenya was also put on the map by various events spurred by various international forums including the visit by the United States President Barack Obama during the GES summit, World Trade Organisation 10th Ministerial Conference as well as Pope Francis visit among others.

Source: CapitalFM