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Kenya is back and ready to move on, Kenyans proclaim

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Nelson Alcantara  Mar 12, 2008

BERLIN (eTN) – There is no better way to show that your country is committed to tourism than making an appearance at the world’s largest travel exhibition. That is exactly what Kenyan officials did last week when, in a show of solidarity and to manifest a shared vision towards the future of Kenya, a delegation comprising of key figures from Kenya’s political circuit attended a Kenya press conference at this year’s edition of ITB Berlin. They voiced the same sentiment—Kenya tourism is ready to move on.

The ITB delegation from Kenya was led by Mvita MP Najib Balala. He said: “Today we came back here to assure the world that Kenya is back. Kenya is safe, and Kenya is a mature destination that cannot be removed from the radar of tourism. We went through turbulence, political turbulence, maybe we needed it. The fact that it had cost us 1200 lives is unfortunate. But the truth of the matter, it built a foundation that is going to last forever.”

He added: “What has happened in Kenya had to happen because we all lived in a façade—that everything was ok. But there were major problems which were never addressed until now.”

He cited a historic joint parliamentary session “assuring the world and Kenyans themselves that the president, the vice president and the new prime minister talking the same language of unity.” Balala said he opted to miss the historic event to attend this year’s ITB to show the world that Kenyans “have given tourism a priority.” “I wan to tell you that I come from a party called that believes in three things—infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. It means security, it means growth, it means marketing.”

Though no explicit mention were made at the Berlin event on how the power-sharing system will impact tourism, it is clear from the presentation that Kenyan politicians and Kenyans in general view tourism as one of the country’s major industries, if not the most important. Balala said: “We came here to make a statement; to show our commitment that we are serious is supporting tourism because tourism is what helps us eradicate poverty. It gives us revenue to build schools, revenue to have water to give to the poor, revenue have shelter, revenue to have health care, and also it gives us revenue to have a dignified life.”

For his part, Dr Ongong'a Achieng', the managing director of the Kenya Tourist Board, said: “We went through the process and we have settled our political disputes, that we are going to have a grand coalition… We have come through, we are back as a tourism industry ready for business, and we are very, very positive that we are going to regain the losses we incurred for the last two months.”

He added: “Kenya was at its best… We recorded the highest traffic with 90-100 percent bed occupancy. Traffic to Kenya was at its best, we registered about 2 million visitors, of which 1 million from source markets.” He mentioned that the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany were among such source markets.

As a result of a peace deal that was helped brokered by former secretary general Kofi Annan, Kenya is enjoying calm after weeks of uncertainties brought about by violence following last December’s general elections.

No tourists were hurt during the bloodshed in Kenya which is something that Kenyan tourism officials credit as a result of a contingency plan put in place to deal with the crisis.

Also present at the event to show his support for Kenya was Nairobi resident and UN Environment Program executive director Achim Steiner.

Kenya is back and ready to move on, Kenyans proclaim
Najib Balala (Image via The Nation)



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