• CS says government has liaised with global partners and developed protocols which shall be rolled out once borders are opened.
• He says Kenya is lucky it has a strong domestic market as it will take time for the international market to open up.
The tourism sector has suffered greatly after the Covid-19 pandemic affected over 90 per cent of its operations.
Tourism CS Najib Balala said the sector used to generate Sh170 billion of revenue to the government.
So far, the CS said, plans are in top gear to reopen the industry in line with the globally recommended protocols. Balala said they are awaiting approvals from the World Tourism and Travel Council.
He said the government has liaised with global partners and developed protocols which shall be rolled out once borders are opened.
"We are working with WTTC to get the stamp or certification that our protocols are compliant internationally," the CS said.
Balala was speaking in Watamu in Kilifi county during the World Sea Turtle Day on Tuesday.
The CS also toured the Watamu Marine Association plastic recycling centre and the Bio Ken Snake farm in the resort town. He said the sector was facing hard times due to the pandemic but expressed optimism the situation would return to normal.
“The country's GDP depends on tourism. Globally, we have lost over 120 million jobs and over Sh40 trillion in revenue," Balala said.
However, Balala said the market in Kenya will recover first followed by the international tourism due to the restrictions imposed in some countries.
"I am optimistic that in one year we can work hard in the domestic market, but stakeholders in the industry must appreciate the domestic market has a different taste and become sensitive in prices.”
The pandemic has evidently shown that tourism is not about travel but everyone in the value chain including farmers, snake parks and all other businesses that depend on the sector for survival, he said.
In Watamu, for example, which is a renowned international tourism destination, all hotels are closed because the sector is dead, Balala said.
"It’s a lesson to open up to the domestic market, we need to change our mindset and appreciate that the domestic market is valuable.”
He said Kenya is lucky it has a strong domestic market as it will take time for the international market to open up.
South Africa has said they would open international travel in 2021 while parts of Europe are saying they will not allow their citizens to travel out until 2021, he said.
“The aviation industry needs to start operating so the tourism industry gets successful.”
Balala’s announcement comes as investors in the North Coast appealed to the government to reopen the skies to begin recovery after flights were halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Edited by R.Wamochie