Kenya faces stiff competition from Tanzania as a tourist destination of choice in the East African region.
The two countries are locked in a tight scramble for international tourists and revenue, even as East African Community partner states prepare to market the region as a single tourist destination.
The World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2009, ranks Kenya highest in East Africa at 93, a position ahead of Tanzania.
Uganda and Burundi are put at position 111 and 131 respectively, out of 133 countries.
This was an improvement for Kenya that was ranked position 100 the previous year and a drop for Tanzania that was then at position 88.
The dismal performance by Kenya’s tourism industry is largely blamed on the post election violence that rocked the country in early 2008.
The report, prepared annually by the World Economic Forum, considers the level of development of the tourism industry in different economies.
The ranking criteria include: the countries’ regulatory framework, natural, human and cultural resources, and business environment and infrastructure.
The business environment and infrastructure in Kenya score higher than in Tanzania; but its resources are ranked worse than the latter’s.
However, Tourism Minister Najib Balala warned that such statistics, based on individual countries’ tourism figures, which do not involve other countries in the region, could result in errors.
“A regional approach in data collection would eliminate statistical errors that occur in situations where tourists enter Tanzania from Kenya and back,” he proposed.
Analysts argue that though Kenya has consistently beaten Tanzania over the past decade in terms of the numbers of international tourist arrivals, it has much lesser average expenditure by tourists per trip
A report on the state of the industry that was recently released by Stanbic Investments, titled “Tourism in Kenya: the bubbling giant,” indicated that in 2008, Kenya received about 1 million international arrivals, while Tanzania had only about half of this.
While the tourists who visited Kenya spent an average $500 per trip, those visiting the neighbouring country spent about $1,600 for every trip.
It is anticipated that the joint marketing efforts under the EAC under the initiative “Destination East Africa” will herald the growth of the tourism sector in the region by attracting more visitors.
Mr Balala said that under such an arrangement, the EAC countries will have joint tourism training, tourism statistics collection systems, and taxation regimes, besides pooling marketing resources and having a single regional stand at international fairs.
The minister wants each EAC country to set up regional centres of excellence in areas that they have comparative advantage to avoid competition amongst countries’ tourism training institutions.
Other joint strategies that have been proposed include harmonisation of taxation regimes based on the EAC protocols to eliminate any unfair competition.
A series of initiatives are ongoing towards this end including a recent joint training of assessors for classification of hotels and restaurants using the newly established East African Classification Standards.
This is aimed at harmonizing registration and classification of accommodation facilities in the region.
The minister wants each EAC country to set up regional centers of excellence in areas that they have comparative advantage to avoid competition amongst countries’ tourism training institutions.
Other joint strategies that have been proposed include harmonization of taxation regimes based on the EAC protocols to eliminate any unfair competition.