Kenya taps Indian travel trade to woo tourists

Kenya taps Indian travel trade to woo tourists

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As a key source market, Kenya is banking on India to boost its international tourism numbers during the year. Official statistics from the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife indicate that Kenya registered a total of 122,649 travelers from the Indian market in 2019.

In 2020, statistics for the period between January to October, the total number of tourist arrivals into Kenya from India was 25,251 and this was mainly due to the travel restrictions imposed by both Kenya and India following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kenya has been open to Indian tourists since October 2020 and has been one of the very few long-haul destinations to do so. Keeping in mind the ongoing nationwide vaccination drive, the destination is optimistic about outbound travel resuming soon and expects traffic towards the end of this year. As travel picks up in 2021, Kenya sees the Indian market as key to the revival of tourism going forward.

To make sure that the destination is on the minds of travelers the Kenya Tourism Board has planned several activities for the Indian market and recently also conducted a trade FAM trip to accelerate conversions from the Indian market.

Excerpts from an interview with Betty Radier, CEO, Kenya Tourism Board:

ETTravelWorld (ETTW): Ever since you reopened tourism, which markets have been the best-performing ones, and where does India rank in this list?

Betty Raider (BR): Already, Kenya has been recording arrivals from countries such as the United States of America, United Kingdom, Uganda, Germany, the Netherlands, China, Canada, Rwanda, France, and South Sudan. Out of over 35 international airlines, about 22 airlines have resumed operations into the destination, these include Qatar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airline, Rwanda Air, British Airways and Air France, Emirates

ETTW: Being one of the few long-haul destinations that are open to Indians currently, what is your strategy for the India market for 2021?

BR: Kenya Tourism Board has appointed a market development representative based in India to assist in the execution of marketing activities. We have also worked to embrace a digital campaign to keep the destination on top of the minds of travelers by increasing visibility.

Also, in order to empower the travel agents with product knowledge, the destination has a series of webinars lined up throughout the year and has currently launched the Magical Kenya Specialist E-platform programs. Through these various platforms, we plan to equip travel agents with destination information that they can share with their clients and make them travel to Kenya.

ETTW: What are your expectations from the Indian market?

BR: With the help of the strategies that involve market representation, digital marketing, and training of travel agents, we expect to increase the interest levels of Indian travelers and would work to attract them to travel to Kenya in the coming season.

ETTW: Kenya has been urging its hospitality sector to expand tourism products as a roadmap to recovery. Are you seeing any developments on that front?

BR: The government has given a stimulus package to the hospitality sector towards providing soft loans to hotels and related establishments to help restore the tourism sector from the pandemic. The uptake of this loan is positive and it is an indication that stakeholders have seen the potential in the sector, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

ETTW: The Kenyan economy is heavily dependent on tourism, how badly hit was the sector post-Covid, and consequently, how did that affect the country’s economy?

BR: The sharp decline in revenues from low occupancy, canceled trips, and disruption of foreign and local travel saw hotels shut down operations, casual workers lost their jobs, and employees were sent on unpaid leaves, while those who remained had to face salary cuts.

ETTW: It seems that many destinations will continue to maintain international travel restrictions for a large part of the year, how differently will you be strategizing your marketing campaigns?

BR: Kenya’s air space is open for international flights and since August 1, 2020, when the country lifted the ban on international flights, we have recorded about 22 flights resuming business, though the number of arrivals is still low. Domestic tourism remains our cushion though the travel plans of locals have also been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We continue to engage with travelers through digital activation via magical Kenya online platforms. A charter from Romania touched down at Moi International Airport Mombasa, Kenya in March with 116 passengers on board. The flight is the first of nine rotations that commenced in March and will be on till August 2021. On April 17, Kenya will receive another charter from Ukraine. Others are also lined up for the year and these indicate that the travelers have confidence in the destination.

ETTW: You recently hosted a group of Indian travel agents, what was the feedback that you got from them post this FAM trip and how do you intend to work on their suggestions?

BR: The FAM group was very happy with the protocols that had been put in place by the hospitality sector and the measures taken against Covid-19. The authentic nature of the tourism product and the experience, as well as the diversity and warmth of the Kenyan people, were some of the attributes that scored high among the agents during their Kenya trip.

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