Why Kenya has to sell itself abroad

Kenya seems to have gained a useful friend in billionaire entrepreneur and adventurer, Sir Richard Branson. He wants the country’s tourism industry resuscitated in a hurry, and has decided to do more than mouth platitudes — he is willing to invest to ensure more tourists flock here.

Violence unleashed by disputed election results last December affected every sector of the economy. The tourism industry was a major casualty of this haemorrhage that threatened to push the country into the intensive care unit.

Indeed, while the industry expected to earn at least Sh28 billion in the first four months of the year, only Sh8 billion was realised, meaning the number of visitors fell by nearly three-quarters due to the turmoil.

This is extremely bad news considering that tourism has been the country’s economic mainstay for years. But there is a way out: Kenya has to sell itself, first by restoring stability, and secondly by launching a sustained publicity blitz in Western capitals.

And to show the way, Sir Richard announced a Sh30 million advertising campaign in London, and in the UK national press.

This sum, though not mind-boggling, should go a long way towards selling the country as a preferred tourist destination.

It is fortunate that Sir Richard is not just your ordinary magnate with a soft heart for Kenya; he is a celebrity in every sense of the word, and when he spreads the word that Kenya is a great country to travel in, he is bound to be listened to by both the leisure class and investors.

However, we, as a country, cannot afford to rely on well-wishers to sell our country for us. It is laudable that the 11-year-old Kenya Tourist Board has woken up from slumber and organised a series of publicity campaigns in the West. Even if such campaigns have not paid off immediately, there is no reason why they shouldn’t in the long haul.

Sustainability is the key, though, of course, no amount of positive publicity will work where there is political and social instability.

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2 Responses to Why Kenya has to sell itself abroad

Anonymous said...

i agree that kenya is complacent about itself and therefore loosing tourists to tanzania, uganda congo and southafrica. you just have to visit the kenyan embassy in london to see the state of things. the place hasnt see a coat of paint . there is no promotional material and afew outdated newspapers.the staff look lazy and half asleep most of the time. why cant they have a tourist office like they used to have in [paris, (at least they were trying,there..)kenya is also as expensive as european cities in terms of food and accomodation, so tourists know they can get a better deal elsewhere.

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