Kenya and France have signed a pact to support tourism growth. The agreement, signed by Kenya’s Tourism minister Najib Balala and his French counterpart Harve Novelli, provides for French support of training and capacity building, eco-tourism development and hotel classification in Kenya.

It is part of the French government’s assistance aimed at helping Kenya maintain its competitive advantage in tourism through better service delivery and product diversification.

Kenya has classified its hotels since 2002. The next round will see new hotels get classified. The pact was signed in France during an official visit by Mr Balala.

He was in France to reassure the market that Kenya was back on the global tourism map, following bad publicity the country received because of the post-election violence.

He also signed a marketing partnership pact with one of France’s leading tour operators, Nouvelles Frontières, for resumption of charter flights to Nairobi and Mombasa.

Largest tourist firms
Cosairfly, the second largest airline after Air France, is operated by the tour company and offered charter flights to Mombasa before the tourism slump. The airline provided a capacity of 2,348 seats on the route in 2007.

Nouvelles Frontières is one of the tour companies owned by TUI AG, one of the worlds largest tourist firms with subsidiaries in Europe and US. TUI owns seven airlines across Europe four of which operated charter flights to Mombasa before the tourism slump.

Mr Balala was accompanied by the French Ambassador to Kenya Elisabeth Barbier, who last month encouraged French tourists and investors to come to Kenya as stability had returned. Statistics from KTB show that last year the French market was one of the average performers with an increase of 4.5 per cent with 52,566 arrivals.

With the national carrier back in operation on the Nairobi- Paris routes, tourists can now access direct flights to the destination. Poor passenger performance on the Nairobi-Paris route forced Kenya Airways to temporarily stop flights to Charles De Gaulle Airport.