Minneapolis, MN (December 2, 2004) – The Kenya Tourist Board reacted today to the continuation of the U.S. Travel Warning placed by the U.S. State Department by announcing impressive gains in tourism numbers from the United States for 2004. The Kenya Tourist Board stated Kenya has seen an incredible 69 percent increase over the peak season months (June through September) from the United States over last year – showing arrivals peaking to numbers not seen since before 2000. Additionally, in 2004, Kenya has seen an overall increase of U.S. travelers of 44.4 percent over last year.
As the U.S. State Department officially retained the ongoing Travel Warning for Kenya on Monday, November 29, the issue of U.S. travelers disregarding the warning has been brought to the forefront. With American travelers flooding into Kenya this season and the warning being in place for almost two years, many Americans seem to be making their own value judgments on the security of certain travel locales around the world. The State Department analyses Travel Warnings about every six months and decides whether to lift a Warning, decrease it or leave it as it stands. In its last reissue of Kenya’s Travel Warning in May 2004, the verbiage was lightened considerably and it was the hope of Kenya tourism officials that the warning would be lifted to a Public Announcement.
“We understand the need for the U.S. Department of State to apply these warnings, but we’re still seeing a great turnaround from the U.S. market. So at this stage, after almost two years, the travel warning is not having a huge impact on the amount of U.S. travelers into Kenya, which was not the case when the warning was first issued. It really scared people at first. Now, I think people are making their own evaluations as to whether it is safe or not.” said O’ngonga’ Achieng, Managing Director of the Kenya Tourist Board.
“With thousands having traveled here safely in the last few years and no terrorist incident for over two years, I think it must be harder and harder for the State Department to substantiate the travel warning; and Americans are growing keen to that fact with the help of good word of mouth.” stated Achieng.
Tourism is one of Kenya’s largest foreign exchange earners. The United States still stands as the third largest market for Kenya’s inbound travel market, behind the United Kingdom and Germany, respectively. With Americans spending three times that of the European traveler, the American market holds a very strong standing in Kenya’s tourism. That is why the tourist board has been working hard to market the country in the U.S. regardless of the Travel Warning. Just this past November, the organization helped host a group of 160 top American travel agents, and plans for another in April.
The familiarization trip, which was hosted by the KTB and five top U.S. Tour Operators (African Travel, Big Five, Classic Escapes, Micato, and Somak Safaris), was the first of it’s kind for Kenya. The trip was geared to help educate travel agents on the experience of traveling to Kenya in order to better help explain the experience to their travelers. The event even included a welcome reception at the U.S. Ambassadors residence.
Travel agents who attended the trip showed their bafflement at the recent continuation of the Travel Warning. Don Rubins, manager of travel promotions for Lifestyle Vacation Incentives, an agency in Delray Beach said, “Having just returned from 10 days in Kenya visiting the Northern sector , Nairobi and the Maasi Mara area, I felt perfectly safe and very comfortable in all areas. One should of course use common sense when traveling and not just to Kenya; every city in the world has areas one should avoid and especially at nighttime. In my personal opinion the US State Dept. travel advisory against Kenya is not necessary, not fair and currently doing much harm to a wonderful, safe country. I would not hesitate to visit Kenya “tomorrow” and in fact, I am planning my next visit to Kenya for either May of 2005 or November of 2005 and would recommend Kenya to my clients without fear or trepidation and would encourage them to travel anytime throughout the year to this wonderful country.”
“It is this type of grass roots educational campaign that provides the experience to those who don’t know what Kenya is like. We feel that by hosting this trip, we will see impressive upsurges in next year’s arrivals from the United States. The group left in awe of the country. We’ve heard from so many who said Kenya is one of the most incredible destinations they’ve ever had the pleasure to visit, and these people have seen it all. It is this type of passion which will help spread the good word to American travelers so they can understand and hopefully one day experience what Kenya is really like.” said Achieng.
The Kenyan government continues to work directly with the U.S. government to ensure the safety of visitors and Kenyan citizens is top priority. Since the U.S. Travel Warning has been put in place, there has been no terrorist incident on tourists in the region and tight security measures have been put in place, which are currently active and evolving.
Traveler and citizen safety has been top priority for the Kenyan government. In the past two years, Kenya has made incredible strides in securing borders, tightening airport security, replacing radar and security equipment in our airports, creating a tourism police task force and widening the reach of our Tourism Safety Center, which allows any visitor traveling with organized tours or staying at any of Kenya’s hotels to be in direct reach of emergency personnel country-wide.
For more information on travel to Kenya, please contact the Kenya Tourist Board in the United States at: 866-44-KENYA or at [email protected].
|About the Kenya Tourist Board: The Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) is an organization representing Kenya’s public and private tourism sectors. The KTB is charged with the responsibility of marketing and promoting Kenya as a preferred tourist destination internationally, while encouraging development of Kenya’s domestic tourist market. The KTB fosters quality service and sustained excellence of tourist facilities and amenities. In addition, the KTB works with national and regional authorities to ensure protection of the environment and wildlife, and also works closely with various relevant organizations to promote quality of service and excellence. The Board members are representatives of Kenya’s various tourism organizations, including Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Information, Kenya Association of Tour Operators, Kenya Association of Travel Agents, Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association, and Kenya Airways. The KTB is headquartered in Nairobi. For more information, visitwww.MagicaKenya.com.|