Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has threatened to cut marketing budget if Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) team fails to deliver desired results.
Mr Balala said although the government had been allocating a substantial amount of money for marketing to KTB, the country is not getting much value for its money.
Speaking at Diani Reef Beach Resort in Kwale during a Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) on Thursday, the Cabinet Secretary added that the government had in the last two financial years allocated Sh2 billion for marketing.
He noted that since KTB was established in 1997, the marketing team had been participating in annual international travel shows in the United Kingdom and Germany, but still international tourist numbers were low.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Mr Balala said despite the huge budget for marketing, the country received only 877,000 international tourists last year while Morocco and Egypt had between 10 million and 11 million arrivals each.
He added that South Africa received nine million international visitors while the country’s international arrivals were below one million.
“Last year, KTB spent $200,000 on participating in the World Travel Market in London. But we are yet to get value for the money which was spent,” he said.
“A group of 60 people was taken to London last year for marketing during WTM, yet still we don’t get tourist numbers compared to our competitors,” he said.
Mr Balala warned: “It will not be business as usual. If we don’t see results from the marketing initiatives, I will reduce the budget of KTB.”
In order to transform the marketing agency, he said the government in December last year appointed Betty Radier to spearhead reforms at KTB.
He called on the new KTB boss to bring reforms in the marketing agency for the country’s tourism industry to recover.
However, he said the industry had the potential to recover in the near future if political leaders and their supporters desist from violence during the August 8 polls.
“For tourism to do well, there is need for leaders seeking political positions and their supporters to maintain peace during the electioneering period,” he said.
Mr Balala said that apart from tourism being an economic driver, it also supports the livelihoods of millions people across the country.
He also raised alarm over cattle grazing in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, warning that it could affect visitor numbers in the popular game reserve.
He called on Narok County chiefs to address the challenge of cattle in the reserve as part of efforts to tackle human-wildlife conflict.
Mr Balala also warned that overdevelopment, environmental degradation and the blocking of wildlife migratory routes by the fencing of private land neighbouring the reserve were among the concerns affecting the Mara.
“Unless we address the challenges facing the Mara, we might kill the goose laying golden eggs,” he warned.
At the Coast, Mr Balala said the government had set aside Sh100 million for improving the beach product in a bid for the region to attract more international visitors.
He called for the formation of five beach zones such as Mombasa, Diani, Malindi, Watamu and Lamu to be marketed as individual destinations.
“The government will spend Sh100 million with the aim of improving the standards of the coastal beaches for them to woo more visitors for tourism in the region to recover,” he said.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) national chairman Jaideep Vohra also called for peaceful campaigns ahead of the August 8 elections.
He said if the country conducts peaceful elections, tourism would recover and boost the economy and job creation.
“For tourism to thrive, peace is key. Therefore, we are appealing to leaders and electorate to keep peace for the industry to recover,” he said.