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Kenya launches drive to attract Chinese tourists

By Lucie Morangi | | Updated: 2015-02-27 10:35

Kenya is betting on Chinese tourists to lift its sluggish hospitality industry as western visitors shun the country over travel advisories issued last year.

The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has made an agreement with a Chinese tour company, Polaris Safari Ltd that is also collaborating with Uniway Travel to bring in at least 100 tourists every month during the low seasons.

Kenya has two low seasons; April to May and November and December while the high season runs from June to September. A shoulder season or the period between peak and off-peak seasons is January to March and October.

"Our reassurance campaigns in Beijing and Shanghai early this year have seen major Chinese tour operators begin to show renewed interest in selling Kenyan destinations," said KTB managing director Muriithi Ndegwa.

According to Ndegwa, the strategy to boosts Chinese tourist arrivals from the 31,486 recorded last year is buoyed by Kenya Airway's direct flights from Guangzhou to Nairobi.

"With the direct flight to China where Kenya Airways operates three times a week, we have no doubt that this market is poised to grow to the next level," said Ndegwa.

About 114 Chinese tourists, including senior managers from leading tour companies, have started arriving into the country. Their itineraries set for different dates will see them visiting Amboseli, Naivasha and Maasai Mara for the next three weeks. The board said the excursion will provide the tour operators with firsthand experience on Kenya's unique offerings.

China is among the top 10 tourist source markets to the country and figures up to November last year saw the market drop by 9.8 percent from 34,923 same period last year.

Already, some tour operators and hotels have closed shop for lack of business. KTB managing director attributed the drop that was reported across all the markets to insecurity and the ebola scare but noted that the market is expected to regain its upward growth trajectory with reassurance campaigns.

In 2013, Kenya received 398,000 international tourists compared to 381,000 in 2014.

Last year, China tourist market recorded 100 million in-bound tourists.

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