Denis Normandeau of Renaissance Vacations with Dr. Betty Radier, CEO of the Kenya Tourist Board and Vincent Veerasuntharam of Survara Travels
Josephine Mbela of the Kenya Tourist Board and Roula Shabaani of Kenya Airways
The Hon. Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism & Wildlife – clearly enjoying the wildlife-themed room at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel
You know wildlife is important to a country when there is a cabinet seat for Tourism & Wildlife. Such is the case for Kenya, whose Hon. Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism & Wildlife, visited Toronto last week as part of an outreach on behalf of suppliers in Kenya.
The biggest news from the tourism officials present was that on 29OCT Kenya Airways will launch non-stop 15-hour flights to Nairobi from JFK. The daily flights, on board B787 Dreamliners, will feature 30 seats in Premier World Class with 2-piece (@32 kg) baggage allowance and 204 seats in Economy with 3-3-3 seating and 2-piece (@ 23 kg) baggage allowance.
Tourism is obviously crucial to the Kenyan economy, and Balala stated that the government is investing heavily, especially in five National Parks to make them more accessible and “provide a visitor experience beyond expectation.” There will also be a focus on improving infrastructure, including roads, railways and airports.
The U.S. is the number one source for tourists at 100K (followed by the UK at 90K, India at 70K and China at 60K – we Canadians last year numbered 17K). There is a visa requirement, but authorities were quick to point out that it’s an online process and takes just two minutes (at a cost of US$50).
Also in attendance was Moira Smith, General Manager/Africa and the Middle East for Goway. “Kenya is our second biggest-selling country in Africa, after South Africa,” she told Open Jaw. “We really offer the full range including tailor-made high-end FIT. Sky safaris – where you fly from camp to camp – is the way to go, budget permitting.” Not surprisingly, average Goway Kenya clients are 50+, affluent, and, as she put it, travellers, rather than tourists.
“Kenya has a culture of democracy, inclusion and accommodation. Like Canada,” a beaming Balala told the group of tour operators and media. And it’s a country that is clearly looking forward to welcoming more visitors from North America – including us.
Martha Chapman Columnist
An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.