THE Middle East has been a successful market for Kenya in the last two years, according to a senior spokesperson for Kenya Tourism Board (KTB). “The last year saw the highest arrivals from the Middle East to Kenya – the figure went up by 46 per cent last year,” said George Chirchir, regional marketing manager at KTB.
He was speaking on the side lines of the Arabian Travel Mart (ATM) held last month in Dubai.
“We achieved 21,128 visitors to Kenya in 2011 compared with 14,874 visitors for the same period in 2010. We get immense confidence from this market. We are also seeing a huge interest from Kenyan tour operators who are coming into this area and forming new products and exploring new segments,” he elaborated. “We have participated in ATM for the last eight years and have experienced very positive feedback from this market.
According to him, the region has good access to Kenya, compared to countries from Europe and other markets. “There are seven airlines, which fly into Kenya from UAE and within the region and they provide good access to our country,” he noted. “Due to the increase in flights, many tour operators are working directly with airlines to develop packages that can be sold with the latter.”
He added that the KTB has a five year strategy, which has cascaded down to different areas. “But, even before we made concrete our plans for this region, specific segments were doing well such as the extended weekend breaks concept, which in turn increased business for the airlines. Family groups had also started to increase from this area,” he said. “Additionally, we have seen an increase in Mice requests for groups (in the range of 25 to 300 people groups) from UAE and Qatar.
Hence, over the next three years, we are looking at working very closely with tour operators in terms of helping them to develop new products and reach new targets and also help retain their old client database.”
KTB is also training people from front offices of tour operators to familiarise them with the country, including offering trips to certain operators to get a real experience of the place.
The weather is good all year around to travel to Kenya, he added. Wildlife continues to be the top-seller attraction in Kenya followed by balloon safaris, which are also getting popular as standalone products along with trekking and walking safaris in the adventure tourism segment. Cultural tourism is also getting very popular, he concluded. “People are enjoying the home-stay concept, which gets them experience a back-to-nature and outdoor life as compared to their modern lifestyles.”
By Sona Nambiar