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  • Hon. Balala, Minister for Tourism, attends tour operators’ forum 17/11/2011

    Hon. Balala, Mr. Bisschops, Mr. Oloo & Mr. MugohHon. Najib Balala, the Minister for Tourism, addressed a tour operators’ forum that took place on 14 November 2011 at the Sheraton Hotel in Brussels. The Hon. Minister noted that the number of tourists from Belgium to Kenya has increased by more than 18%, despite the decline in some source markets, and that there was every indication that the trend could continue.

    Hon. Balala addresses forumThe forum was attended by the major tour operators in Belgium, SN Brussels Airlines, Kenya’s Honorary Consul for Antwerp and the Flemish region. The Hon. Minister informed the forum that Kenya, together with the Somali Transitional Government (TFG) and the majority of the Somali population, with the support of the international community, was committed to eradicating the Al Shabab militia menace which had become a security and economic threat, not only to Kenya but to the whole region and internationally. He informed that the operation was progressing well with gains on all fronts, and that there was no turning back until Somalia was cleared of all the militia.

    The Hon. Minister told the forum that despite Kenya’s onslaught against the Al Shabab militia in Somalia, all parts of Kenya were safe and that adequate security measures had been put in place.  The Minister allayed any fears of insecurity along the coast, particularly the Lamu region, which had been affected by the kidnapping of two foreigners. He had personally visited the region with the security team to assess the situation, held meetings with the hoteliers and other tourist stakeholders, and was satisfied. He would soon be visiting the area again with members of the diplomatic corps in Kenya, and assured that the region had been declared by several foreign representations in Kenya as safe for travel.

    forum attendeesThe Hon. Minister informed that tourism products were being diversified, and that more game parks were being opened up, including Lake Turkana National Park. Furthermore, plans were underway to join Lake Nakuru National park to Lord Delemare Conservancy, with a luxury tented camp and cultural centres already having been put up in the Conservancy, in addition to other developments.

    In terms of infrastructural development, the roads leading to the tourist attraction sites, for example the Mombasa highway, the Nairobi-Narok road to Masai Mara game park and the Namanga road to Amboseli National Park, had been done. The road network in the Mount Kenya region was being done as well. The refurbishment of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, with the construction of terminal 4, was underway, other airports and air-strips were being expanded and modernised, while a brand new airport was being planned and the construction would be complete by 2015. A rail link between the airport and the Nairobi city centre would be complete by 2012, in effect reducing the travel time from the JKIA Airport to the city centre to 15 minutes. The construction of the Likoni bypass in Mombasa would commence by March 2012. The construction of the road link with the neighbouring countries had been planned. Kenya, therefore, remains a communication hub in the region. New and modern hotels were also being put up.

    While appreciating the role which SN Brussels Airlines, the Belgian national carrier, and Kenya Airways have played in tourism promotion in Kenya and the region, the Minister said that SN Brussels Airlines needs to increase its flights to the region. In addition, more charter flights were still necessary for the industry to thrive.

    While addressing the same forum, H.E. Ambassador Kembi-Gitura reiterated the importance of air links in trade and economic development, and also in fostering bilateral relations between countries. He mentioned that SN Brussels Airlines would increase its flights to Kenya to four flights per week from March 2012. H.E. the Ambassador told the forum that the increase was not only meant to address passenger transport, but that talks were going on with regard to the direct shipment of cut-flowers and other horticultural products from Kenya to Belgium for the local market and also for distribution to the region, given the strategic location of Brussels in central Europe.

    Before the function, the Hon. Minister found time to pay a courtesy call at the Kenyan Embassy, where he signed the visitors’ book and addressed home-based officers on current government initiatives on development.