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Kenya Targets African Market to Boost Tourism Earnings

Kenya is targeting other African nations to shore up falling numbers of holidaymakers after attacks by Islamist militants discouraged tourists that originated in its traditional source markets from visiting.

The $1-billion-a-year industry is struggling to recover after a series of attacks in the past two years by insurgents loyal to the al-Shabaab movement in neighboring Somalia killed more than 500 people. Foreign visitors to the country fell 19 percent in the first half to 347,398, according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data.

“We are looking at growing the pie from the African continent,” Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa said in an Aug. 22 interview in the Kenyan resort city of Mombasa. “We consider the regional market very crucial, we cannot ignore it.”

Increased air connections and marketing Kenya as a vacation spot have helped boost the number of African visitors, Ndegwa said. They made up 24 percent of tourist arrivals in 2014, he said.

Kenya is famed for its safari and beach vacations. Tourism is the biggest generator of foreign exchange after tea exports and the decline in revenue has undermined theshilling, which has dropped 13 percent against the dollar this year.

Nigerian Tourists

Nigeria posted the largest increase in visitors after 6,255 entered Kenya in the first half of 2015, compared with 5,765 during all of 2014, Ndegwa said. South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania remain key markets.

“Our own people are an essential and fast-growing element within the tourism equation,” Deputy President William Ruto said at the UN-WTO East Africa Tourism Development Forum in Mombasa on Aug. 22. “Gone are the days when the safari was the exclusive domain of the wealthy western tourist.”