Nairobi — The tourism industry is gearing up for more business this festive season in the wake of President Uhuru Kenyatta's announcement that Africans will be issued visas on arrival in the country.
Players in the industry are optimistic that the move will increase the number of tourists to the coastal region and other preferred destinations across the country.
"Visa-Free Travel for Africans into Kenya is a great move by the President and a strategic one for the Tourism Industry," said Bobby Kamani, who is the Managing Director at the Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa, one of the popular destinations for holidaymakers in the South Coast.
President Kenyatta made the announcement during his inauguration on Tuesday, marking the beginning of his second and final term in office.
"The President's bold move couldn't have come at a better time when the tourism sector has experienced its uncertainty and is now on recovery mode with the festive season proving very encouraging," Bobby said.
In his speech, President Kenyatta explained that "The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity, we will become."
The Head of State said the move will "underscore Kenya's commitment, this shall not be done on the basis of reciprocity."
Bobby couldn't agree more, saying "the move will not only enhance tourism but improve diplomatic relations with Kenya and its brothers and sisters across the continent. Kenya is home to beach and bush destinations such as Maasai Mara and Diani, respectively."
The visa restrictions for Africans had been a major hindrance to visitors from the continent who were keen on taking holidays in Kenya which is considered one of the best destinations in the continent.
Asked what more the government should do to spur tourism growth in the north and south coast, Bobby said infrastructural development is key, citing the ferry challenges, but lauded the government's move to put up the Dongo-Kundu by-pass which is almost complete.
"We are excited because the transport mayhem at the Ferry terminal will be a thing of the past in quarter one of 2018 as the government will be completing the Dongo-Kundu bypass," Bobby told Capital FM News.
It is estimated that the journey from the Moi International Airport to Diani will take about 15 to 20 minutes as compared to the time taken when crossing the ferry that is usually congested, particularly during peak hours or when only one ferry is operating due to the constant breakdowns.
Bobby is now urging the government to consider expanding Ukunda airport to be able to accommodate bigger planes because this is the only way hotels in the South Coast will get more visitors.
In his opinion, the tourism sector has experienced a steady growth this year, despite the long electioneering period, and he credits the government for maintaining security.
"If I speak about Diani Reef, for instance, we have been having substantial bookings from April this year and it slowed down in August because of elections. But we have seen booking inquiries increasing for both international and domestic tourists," he said and expressed optimism that December will be even better, being the peak season in the tourism industry.
"We expect a bullish 2018 for the tourism industry as the economy also recovers from the election year shocks," he said.