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Tourism events open East African states


Major tourism exhibitions, gathering, and networking took place in East Africa this ending month with positive indications to open up the region and the rest of Africa to key world tourist markets.

Five major tourism gatherings were organized in East Africa between October 2-20, attracting key business stakeholders, policymakers, and executives from leading tourist market sources across the world such as Kenya Airways.

Famous for wildlife, tropical beaches, cultural and historical sites, the East African region attracted global tourist and travel trade partners from early October who had gathered to participate in three premier tourism exhibitions and two executive conferences organized in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zanzibar.

The Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) took place in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi from October 2-4 with a good record of participants, mostly hotel and tourist service providers.

Kenyan Minister for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala said the AHIF attracted key personalities from the hotel industry in Africa and outside the continent.

The conference, which took place at the Radisson Blu Hotel, had so far connected business leaders from the international and local markets in tourism, infrastructure, and hotel development across Africa.

Mr. Balala said Kenya had increased brand visibility as a destination as a result of the AHIF and the Magical Kenya Travel Expo which took place on the same dates.

“In the ongoing financial year, combined tourist arrivals as of July 2017 to the end of June 2018 closed at 1,488,370 compared to 1,393,568 visitors in 2016-17, illustrating a growth of 6.8 percent,” Balala said.

The AHIF is the only annual hotel investment conference that brings together key personalities in the hotel investment community with a passion to invest in Africa.

AHIF stands as Africa’s annual meeting place for the region’s most senior hotel investors, developers, operators, and advisors.

Africa is now an upcoming hotel investment area among other continents with many of the world’s leading hotel operators already forging ahead with ambitious hotel expansion strategies.

Africa’s hotel market is limited but with a growing demand that is being driven by upcoming investments in tourism. Sub Saharan Africa has shown a positive trend in hotel investments to compete with North Africa, AHIF organizers had said.

AHIF is the premier hotel investment conference in Africa, attracting many prominent international hotel owners, investors, financiers, management companies, and their advisers.

Along with the AHIF, the Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MAKTE) was held from October 3 to 5 at the Kenya International Conference Centre (KICC) to showcase tourist attractions and services within the Kenyan safari industry.

The event attracted participants from the East African region and Africa to exhibit the region’s tourism treasures looking to capture world tourist markets.

More than 30 nations participated in the eighth edition of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo. The Kenya Tourism Board, who was an organizer of the expo, said that 185 exhibitors participated in the event against the 140 exhibitors in last year’s edition. The number of hosted buyers during this year’s Expo went up to 150 up from 132 recorded last year, the Kenya Tourist Board said.

Hosted buyers included travel agents, tour operators, hoteliers, and trade media from Kenya’s key tourism source markets in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

The Swahili International Tourism Expo (SITE) took place in Tanzania’s commercial city of Dar es Salaam from October 12 to 14 attracting 150 local and international tourism companies, mostly from Africa, plus 180 international-class tourist business stakeholders.

The 79th Skål International Conference was held at Pride Inn Paradise Beach Hotel in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa from October 17 to 21. More than 500 delegates from over 40 countries attended the conference.

Skal President Susanna Saari said the event was a game changer for Mombasa’s tourism industry.

“This is an important event for Kenya’s tourism sector to showcase what the country has to offer, particularly in Mombasa,” Susanna said.

She added that international and local travel and tourism professionals held discussions, looking for new ideas and destinations to tap into.

“Skal is the biggest travel and tourism organization in the world. We have about 14,000 members globally. We expect hundreds of our colleagues to come and enjoy Kenyan hospitality,” she said.

Most exciting was the Zanzibar Tourism Show, the first premier tourism exhibition to be organized on the island famous for beach tourism and marine tourism in East Africa.

The show attracted more than 130 exhibitors to the event which took place from 17 October 17 to 19 at the Verde Hotel Mtoni on the island.

The President of Zanzibarm Dr. Ali Mohammed Sheinm opened the grand show promising to strengthen tourism investments on the island. He invited world-class tourists to visit this Indian Ocean paradise island, saying tourists are now spending more days when visiting island beaches and other attractions.

He said that the number of tourist stays had increased from six to eight days during the past five years.

The Zanzibar President said that his government is now committed to developing tourism, aiming to bring this Indian Ocean Island to a middle-class economy through tourism over the next coming two years.

Zanzibar’s Minister of Information, Tourism and Heritage, Mahmoud Thabit Kombo, said that the show has attracted a good number of exhibitors to participate and display their tourism products.

“The show is part of a promotional strategy in the tourism sector initiated by the government of Zanzibar and private sector aimed to further assist the Zanzibar destination in its sustainable positioning in global market,” added the Minister.

He said that the contribution of tourism to the economic well-being of the island is immense. Zanzibar depends on the quality of service provided and scale of promotion of its tourist products and services to global holidaymakers.

A milestone achievement to East African tourism was observed last Sunday when Kenya Airways launched its first ambitious flight to the United States.

The Kenya Airways daily flights between Nairobi and New York marked a milestone development in travel and tourism business between the East African states through air connection in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

The long-awaited inaugural flight was launched mid-morning on Sunday, bringing the Kenyan air carrier among the fastest-growing airlines from Africa to enter the US skies.

Rich in tourism, the Eastern and Central African states have been depending on foreign air carriers to bring their visitors from the United States through connections in other states outside the region.

Kenya Airways launched the first-ever direct flight between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and the JF Kennedy International Airport in New York after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave Kenya a Category One rating in February 2017, paving the way for direct flights subject to other permits being received by the airport and the airline’s management.

Nairobi, the East African safari hub, will now be a key link between the East African Community (EAC) states and the United States, taking advantage of Kenya Airways and fast-growing tourism in Kenya.

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Apolinari Tairo - eTN Tanzania