Kenya hardselling leisure, biz travel in India

February 18th, 2011 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) You can visit Kenya 20 times and still do something different each time, may be even snack on your favourite samosa! The east African nation is busy positioning itself as an upper middle class holiday destination for leisure, honeymoon and business travellers from India.Kenya, sought after for its wildlife safaris, exotic coasts and ethnic lifestyle shows, expects a 10 percent increase in tourist arrivals from India this year.

“We want to project ourselves as a unique high-value safari destination with a diverse array of products centred on the wildlife trails in the Indian market, which is a key emerging segment for us,” Jennifer Opondo, director of marketing of the Kenyan Tourist Board, told IANS in the capital.

“We want Indians to understand that if a tourist visits Kenya 20 times, the visitor can do 20 events and still not be bored!”

A high-level delegation of the Kenyan Tourism Board was in the capital to interface with the local travel trade industry to showcase its tourism potential and reach out to the large untapped segments of tourists in the emerging economically viable tier-2 cities of the country.

Opondo, who was in the capital for a day with a 12-member team, said, “Kenya has a high diversity of natural species and the biggest concentration of wildlife in small spaces in Africa.”

Added to the wildlife safaris, the bulk of which plays out in the state’s 59 national parks, reserves and private sanctuaries, is the country’s nearly 470-km coastline hugging the Indian Ocean that sustains marine tourism with protected coral reefs and a 500-year-old history of colonial settlement by European, South Asian and Far Eastern settlers in towns like Malindi, Mombasa, Diani and and the Lamu island, Opondo said.

The stately Masai tribesmen enhance the mystique, she said.

“We want more Indian tourists to visit the country’s coast, along with the wildlife parks. The coasts are a cultural mix of Indian, Arab, Chinese Swahili and European influences,” she said.

For Kenya, tourism from India is a “beautiful growth story rooted in the country’s colonial history”. “If the benchmark is calculated as 2007, then between 2007 and 2009, the volume of tourism from India to Kenya has grown over 32 per cent. The period between January and October in 2010 has seen 40,000 Indian tourists - an increase of 34.4 percent over the corresponding period in 2009,” Opondo said.

“India figures sixth among the list of top inbound arrivals. It trails behind the US, Italy, Germany and France,” Opondo said.

Currently, the maximum number of tourists to Kenya was from Mumbai and Gujarat, she said. “We want to target south Indian and eastern cities like Kolkata that are affluent,” she said.

Citing a price breakup for a holiday to Kenya, Ondo said “a five-night trip, the average travel haul, costs nearly Rs.100,000 per person with board, food and sightseeing”. While Mumbai has a daily flight to Kenya, Delhi operates five direct flights a week.

Outlining the historical perspective of the ties between India and Kenya, Opondo said the traditional diamond market of Kenya and an old rail-head at Mombasa built by the British from the coast to Lake Victoria attracted Indian traders to the coast in the late 19th and early 20th century. Modern migration to Kenya dates back to 1869 with 30,000 Sikh workers, who were recruited for infrastructure jobs.

“The majority of the tourists to Kenya from India is of the VFR (visiting friends and relatives) segment. We want to convert it into the leisure segment by encouraging experiential travel for families, large business, conference and incentive travellers’ groups,” she said.

Citing celebrity travel from India, Opondo said “the Ambani family was a frequent visitor to the Kenyan coast with Bollywood stars like Saif Ali Khan”.

Food was another attraction, Opondo said. “Apart from seafood and the traditional fish and meat dishes, the most popular snack in Kenya was the Indian samosa. Chapati was a part of the national menu, almost as popular as the local ugali - a maize, millet and casava dish,” she said.

Opondo said her country was also “trying to push Kenyan golf tourism in the Indian market and the Kenya Film Commission wants to promote Kenya as a destination with single-window clearance for Bollywood mainstream and documentary filmmakers”.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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