Tourism in Coast province, the main attraction for visitors to Kenya over the years, is at a crossroads as a monotonous product range, declining charter frequency and beach boys put off potential visitors.
The tourism industry is now looking for ways to spruce up the product range as investors in the province’s leisure sector struggle to keep afloat.
Annual performance data released by the Kenya Tourist Board on Friday showed that coastal tourism fell 30 per cent below target compared to Nairobi which was only one percentage point off the expectation in terms of visitor numbers.
The target is based on the levels attained in 2007, which was the best year in terms of the sector’s overall performance.
Players are now calling for the product to be enhanced through cultural and conference attractions.
“The Coast is still lagging behind. We have to work on this and have the challenge to reposition it,” said Mr Jake Grieves-Cook, chairman of Kenya Tourist Board (KTB).
Speaking during the announcement of the tourism sector performance in 2009, Mr Grieves-Cook noted that the destination had yet to recover and was still lagging behind.
The poor ferry service as well as beach boys have been identified as some of the issues that need to be addressed to help build the destination’s image.
In 2009 the sector fell short by 9.2 per cent to reach the 2007 figures, the best year for the sector, but recorded a 30 per cent increase over 2008.
International arrivals stood at 952,481 last year compared to 729,000 in 2008. Earnings also increased by 18 per cent from Sh52.7 billion to Sh62.4 billion.
In 2007, the industry’s benchmark year, the sector recorded an earning of Sh65 billion with arrivals reaching the one million mark.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was the main point of entry accounting for over 700,000 of the arrivals compared to Moi International Airport that recorded 176,469 arrivals.
The US, India, China, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Tanzania and Uganda are some of the markets that have fully recovered with a majority expected to record and surpass 2007 figures this year.
Muriithi Ndegwa, KTB’s managing director, attributed the increment in arrivals and earnings to efforts put in place by the Board to reassure markets that Kenya was still an attractive destination, as well as aggressive marketing.
His team is looking at product diversification and appointing new representatives in emerging markets like Australia, Japan and India.
“We believe 2010 is going to be a much better year as we intensify our marketing activities both locally and abroad,” he said.
The UK, US, Italy, Germany and France remained the country’s major source markets.
During the presentation, KTB unveiled a new media campaign to be aired in Europe.
The Jambo campaign is expected to run for six months both on BBC and Euromedia.
In addition, the board is looking at rolling out a domestic campaign in a bid to stimulate travel from this segment.
The Jambo campaign has been funded by the European Union which has spent about Sh600 million for KTB’s marketing activities.