Kenya is one of the most sought after destinations in Africa, especially for the unmatched safari experience it offers to tourists. Home to 19 national parks and game reserves, Kenya has over the years become a desirable, even aspirational destination for Indians. Tourism is already the second largest source of foreign exchange revenue after agriculture. Also, with the second largest Indian diaspora in Africa after South Africa, there are long and historic ties between the two countries. However, a combination of factors have seen the country suffer as tourism dollars have considerably fallen in the last couple of years. In an interview, Hildah Ogada, Assistant Regional Marketing Manager, Kenya Tourism Board, explains to Suman Tarafdar the reasons and why it is now investing again in a major way in the Indian market.
How important is India for Kenya’s tourism?
India is now the third largest tourist source market for Kenya. We have seen a growth of over 30% during January to July, over the same time last year. We have seen 37,597 visitors, up from 27,944 visitors recorded last year over the same period.
How many Indians travelled to Kenya in the last couple of years?
The last two years were heavy for us. In 2015, 49,000 Indians travelled to Kenya. The highest year to date has been 2012, when we had about 60,000 visitors from India.
Have you set a target for the number of Indians you want to see visiting Kenya?
We are targeting 100,000 visitors from India by 2018.
How long are Indians staying during their visit and how much are they spending when they visit Kenya? And where are they going?
On average, Indians spend five nights and spend about $700. Indians mainly go on safaris and to the beaches.
What steps are you taking to promote Kenya among Indians?
We will be taking various steps to promote tourism in Kenya. Bollywood is an important route to create more awareness about Indians. Recently, we took 12 Indian film makers to India with a vision to promote tourism aspiration among Indians for Magical Kenya. We shall continue to invest more in the future as we aim to make India our number one source market for Kenya.
What steps are taking with the travel trade?
India and Kenya have long and historic ties. Kenya Tourism Board has been undertaking several consumers as well as trade initiatives to further increase arrivals from India. Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) will spend more than Kenyan Sh20 million on a new campaign, “Kenya Kalling” and plan to invest more through other initiatives like association with Indian Cricket, celebrities and other consumer brands. We will run in print, radio and online media platforms in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Details of the campaign can be accessed by logging on to magicalkenya.com/kenyakalling/ (for travellers) and kenyakalling.com (for the Indian travel trade). The campaign will run for six months, from now till December this year, and again next year.
Is connectivity a challenge to get more tourists?
We already have a direct flight from Mumbai to Kenya. Also for this campaign, Kenya Airways has launched an all inclusive airfare of INR 25,538 for a return trip from Mumbai to Nairobi which can be booked on their website kenya-airways.com. We are also expanding aviation facilities in Kenya to make it easier for tourists.
Which aspects of Kenya are you looking to promote?
Kenya has been well established as a leading safari destination, now we want to promote its splendid white sand beaches, water sports, golf and other unique natural treasures to new-age Indian travellers.
What are the main challenges to growing more tourism from India?
A big challenge is the requirement of various vaccinations, eg polio, yellow fever etc. Air connectivity and food are not major challenges for us.
Is food a consideration for Indian travellers who want familiar food?
No, Kenya and India have similar cuisines. We also have chapattis, biryanis, pulaos etc. Indian face no trouble at all in eating when they are in Kenya.
How about visa requirements, especially a common with neighbouring countries?
Getting a visa for Kenya is very easy, and no visa is required for children up to the age of 16. We have a common visa agreement with Uganda and Rwanda. We would love if Tanzania would join in, and are also looking at Burundi and South Sudan to join.
Kenya has been wracked by security and health issues. Are those behind you?
Security in Kenya is good. We have taken multiple steps to strengthen security. There was a decline due to the ebola fears in west Africa, but that is behind us.
What categories of travellers are you primarily targeting?
We are looking at MICE groups, wedding groups, adventure tourists, families, photographers, business travellers.