Kenya hopes China can help boost tourism

 Saturday, March 11, 2023 


Kenya is looking to China to boost the recovery of its tourism sector, one of the country’s pillar industries, as it anticipates an uptick in the number of Chinese tourists this year.

With China holding its annual two sessions gathering of its top legislature and advisory bodies in Beijing, the East African country is also highly confident the optimized COVID-19 control and prevention policy in China will drive tourism in Kenya.

“For us, China is a really important market,” John Chirchir, chief executive officer of the Kenya Tourism Board said. “I wish to thank the Chinese government for its decision to include Kenya as one of the first countries to be designated for the resumption of packaged tours.”

On Feb 6, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism resumed outbound group tour services for 20 countries, including Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and New Zealand, following a three-year suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first tour group to visit Kenya from China since the resumption of services arrived in Nairobi, the nation’s capital, on Feb 11.

With the return of tourists from China, tourism companies in Kenya are optimistic about the further recovery of the sector this year, Chirchir said.

“It has been very positive for the companies that have interacted with us. They have said business is good, and they are looking at a really good recovery from China,” he said, adding that most of the major travel companies said they expect their business to recover to between 60 and 70 percent of pre-pandemic level in 2019 this year if more Chinese tourists arrive.

“We are happy that the Chinese are coming in and really enjoying themselves in Kenya,” he said.

China is the second-largest source of Asian tourists for Kenya. In 2018, before the pandemic, more than 230,000 Chinese tourists visited and spent at least one night in the country, almost double the figure for 2016, according to Kenya’s Tourism Department.

Most Chinese tourists visit Kenya between July and September to see the wildebeest migration, it said.

To better tap into the Chinese market and attract more Chinese tourists, Kenya’s tourism authority will resort to “aggressive marketing” this year. It will focus more on digital marketing, including partnering with online influencers, Chirchir said.

“China is really ahead. Almost everybody has two phones and internet access. So we are looking at how to work with people who can influence independent travelers, people who can communicate with group travelers and advise them and guide them,” he said.

“We want to collaborate with airlines or travel agents in China, and are looking to working with companies that have footprints in Kenya.”

In addition, the Kenya Tourism Board will also improve market research to gain a better understanding of Chinese tourists and develop products that better suit their specific needs, he said.

“Many people think Chinese tourists are not adventurous. But I don’t think so, because if you go online, you find Chinese climbing mountains, skiing, hiking and really going for things that have an element of adventure,” he said.

With deepening exchanges between the two peoples, the Chinese language is becoming more popular in Kenya, which could also serve as extra motivation for Chinese tourists to visit, he said.

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