The tourism industry, which was battered by post-election violence, has almost fully recovered to its pre-2007 General Election level.
Tourism arrivals and cash inflows are up 90 per cent from last year, and it is expected the industry will be back to pre-violence numbers by next March.
Speaking at the ninth Lamu Cultural Festival, Tourism minister Najib Balala attributed the recovery to aggressive marketing by the Kenya Tourist Board in customary source markets in Europe.
Players in the industry have predicted there will be a large number of visitors during the European winter season as visitors arrive to enjoy the warm weather over the holiday season.
The number of charter flights to Moi International Airport in Mombasa is expected to soar to 30 a week compared to the current 20. New airlines in Belgium, Holland and France, as well as Ethiopian Airlines, are adding flights to Mombasa.
“I am happy that our marketing campaigns in Europe and other continents have started to bear fruit,” Mr Balala said. The sector has recovered by 90 per cent”, and we expect fully recovery by March next year. We have seen new airlines from Europe launching direct flights to Mombasa, and this has boosted the tourist numbers. Next month we expect most of the hotels at the Coast to be packed with guests.”
The Lamu Cultural Festival this weekend has attracted thousands of people from both the country and the rest of the world.
The minister was accompanied by Morocco Tourism minister Mohamed Busaidy and the ambassadors from France, Brazil and Morocco.
Mr Balala praised Lamu residents for particiating in the cultural festival every year, saying it will not only preserve the unique culture of the island but also boost tourism in the area.
Lamu Culture Promotion Group chairman Ghalib Alwy urged the government to help residents preserve local cultural values.
Mr Alwy said unless concerted efforts are made to conserve the traditions for which Lamu was declared a Unesco world heritage site, the culture could be wiped out of the world map by spreading foreign influence.
Visitors flock to Lamu to appreciate the Swahili architecture and visit the world heritage site.
The National Museums of Kenya, which organised the event with significant support from a number of foreign embassies, has rolled out a progrmme of traditional dances, donkey and dhow races, handicraft exhibits and concerts of traditional music.
Mr Balala said the government plans to establish a new tourism training college early next year at Vipingo in Kilifi District where the government has acquired 60 acres of land.
He said the college would be named the Ronald Ngala Utalii Academy in honour of the late Independence hero who was a Coast native.