Less than two years after leaving the White House, former American President Barack Obama remains the top tourist icon in Africa through his visits and family roots on the continent.
The former US President landed in Africa near the end of June of this year for a private family vacation which later changed into a special safari in Africa that had attracted media attention, mostly in Eastern and Southern Africa.
During his visit to Africa lasting up until this week, Obama spent 8 days at Grumeti Game Reserve in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania before flying to Kenya for the family vacation.
Obama’s private visit was kept a secret at his own request until the last day of departure when journalists managed to spot him at the Kilimanjaro International Airport which handles tourists visiting key wildlife parks in the northern tourist circuit.
The former American President left Tanzania for Kenya last Sunday after a family vacation in the Serengeti National Park.
Tourist hotel stakeholders and tourist investors in Kenya said Obama’s visit will boost tourism. They said the former US leader’s visit will fully be realized in 2019 through publicity of his visit.
Mr. Bobby Kamani, the managing director of the Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa on the Kenyan Coast, said the visits by Pope Francis and President Obama in 2015 greatly boosted the tourism industry.
Mr. Kamani was quoted as saying that Kenya started witnessing the effects of the two leaders’ visits a year later, when tourist arrivals from abroad started increasing.
“The industry should continue to see an increased interest in Kenya from the international markets similar to the outcome of the 2015 visits, by seeing a positive variance in arrivals into the country in 2019,” he said.
The Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch executive officer, Sam Ikwaye, said a good number of tourists have started arriving as the properties reopen for the high season.
Obama’s visit had raised the profile of Kenya taking into account the prominent people who have been visiting this safari destination, he added.
“Now that we are soon going to have direct flights to the United States, we can use our profile to market Kenya,” he said.
Other than Tanzania and Kenya, the former American President flew to South Africa where he attended celebrations marking the centennial of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s birth this Wednesday. Obama met with young leaders from around Africa to mark the anniversary, a day after he delivered a spirited speech in Johannesburg about Mandela’s legacy of tolerance.
The former American President had addressed an enthusiastic crowd of 14,000 people who gave him a standing ovation for his address in Johannesburg, the highest-profile one since he left office nearly one-and-a-half-years ago.
With his family roots from Africa, Obama remains the most admired US President recognized in most African nations, looking to attract more American tourists through his name and prominence. The United States is the leading source of tourists visiting Africa each year.