Geneva — "Community-based tourism is opening up a new era," Dr. Dan Kagagi, CEO of Kenya's Tourism Trust Fund, told reporters Tuesday at the TourismAfrica 2006 meeting underway in Geneva Switzerland.
The meeting, which has brought together African government officials, private tourism companies, international organizations and non-governmental organizations, aims to begin shaping a strategic approach to developing tourism across the continent.
The Tourism Trust Fund was established in 2002 with assistance from the European Community.
Earlier this year, the Kenya government announced a "National Tourism Policy." Its key component will bring government and local communities together around a range of new tourism possibilities.
"We're moving away from the tradition of beach and wildlife," said Kagagi, citing adventure safaris, eco tourism, sports tourism, walking tours, horse and camel safaris and cultural tourism as some of the arenas for tourist development in areas that have been largely neglected by the industry. In many of these sectors, where the focus of daily life is on livestock and agriculture, people "are not getting a good return; wildlife is seen as a nuisance not a revenue earner," he said.
The "challenge," said Dr. Kagagi, lies in "opening up many of these new areas of possibility." Northern Kenya, for example, although beautiful, "has issues of remoteness, transportation and security."
Tourism has become an increasingly important part of Kenya's economy, contributing 12.65 percent to the east African nation's gross domestic product and generating 14.7 percent of its foreign exchange earnings.
"The tourism sector has important multiplier effects, which contribute to the general government revenue collection and the overall social and economic growth of the country," says Kenyan Minister of Tourism Morris Dzoro, who is also attending the Geneva meeting. Last year, tourist earnings amounted to 25.8 billion Kenyan shillings. That amount is expected to increase to 60 billion Kenyan shillings in 2007.