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Africa Economy: Kenya sees positive tourism growth from China in 2015

NAIROBI, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The introduction of direct flights to Kenya and the increased marketing of Nairobi as a tourist destination across China is a positive trend for the growth of Chinese tourists to the East Africa nation, tourism markets said recently.

Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa said Kenyan tour marketers based in China and local Chinese tour operators are receiving increased requests from Chinese tourists seeking to visit the world famous Masaai Mara National Park and other attraction sites in the East African nation.

"We have a lot of goodwill from across the world," Ndegwa told Xinhua in an exclusive interview in Nairobi ahead of a major tourism exhibition in Diani, Kenya's coastal region, which has attracted 185 major tourism marketers from around the world, including 10 leading Chinese tour operators.

The KTB, whose mandate is to market the East African nation across diverse territories, is counting on the launch of the direct flights from China to Kenya by the China Southern Airlines and the expansion of local and international hotel chains into Kenya as a positive factor for the growth of the Chinese tourists.

"The footprint of China Southern Airlines across the world and especially in Asia is very huge. The potential for the growth of the Chinese tourists is also very huge," Ndegwa said.

China Southern Airlines launched thrice weekly flights into Kenya in August, promising to change the business fortunes of Kenya, which has suffered from a tourism industry slump.

"China is one growth market. The numbers coming into Kenya are still very small but this is a market of 110 million out-bound travelers. The potential of increasing the number of tourists is very high. We see the potential of growing our numbers exponentially," Ndegwa told Xinhua.

The East African nation is organizing its fifth "Magical Kenya Travel Expo" on Oct. 15-17 to showcase the variety of tourism products available to travelers from across the world.

KTB said its plan is to be able to attract at least one percent of the 110 million Chinese travelers annually into Kenya.

"We want the Chinese tourists to know that Kenya has a variety of tourist attraction products from a variety of 59 national game parks. Our Safari product - a variety of tours and travels across animal parks - is one of the most diverse products around the world. We are doing more to focus on this market," Ndegwa added.

In preparation for the arrivals of more international tourists, the KTB officials say, the ongoing expansion of the airport facilities and the opening of new hotel chains across Kenya, is expanding the tourism industry to further growth.

The national aviation hub, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, is currently upgrading its facilities in anticipation of 20 million passengers handling capacity, with the possibility of more passengers and visitors from diverse number of countries as China, being top of the plan.

Ndegwa said the tourism industry is also upgrading hotel facilities through proper grading of all tourism facilities. This also includes the creation of additional market segments in the tourism industry.

"We are looking at the grading of the hotels and a new pricing system for the national game reserves that would help us to attract high premium visitors. All these are ongoing initiatives to be able to meet the growing demand," the KTB official added.

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