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Monday, February 2, 2015, 10:58

Kenya reassures Chinese tourists of safety

By Lucie Morangi
Kenya reassures Chinese tourists of safety

Kenya hopes to reverse falling Chinese tourist numbers by engaging with China's media outlets to reassure the market that the country is safe from the Ebola pandemic.

The tourism sector, which is the East African country's top foreign earner, has seen tourist numbers drop by an average of 9.3 percent. In May, there was a 4 percent decline three months after the outbreak was first reported in West Africa last year.

Kenya reassures Chinese tourists of safety

This is the painful moment a zebra gets kicked right in the face by his female mate. The photo is taken by Justin Bowen in Kenya on Nov 29, 2012. (Photo / IC)

The hospitality segment has seen a 20 percent slump across all markets.

Betty Ichan, the regional marketing manager at the Kenya Tourism Board, is calling the issue crucial and says the board recently launched a marketing campaign in China to improve the country's image for the Chinese market.

"We are telling the market that we are Ebola-free and, most importantly, that there is a great geographical distance between us and the recuperating West African region," Ichan says.

The two-day marketing event was held at Kenya's embassy in Beijing and at a Shanghai hotel.

The marketing team highlighted the precautionary steps taken by the Kenyan government at all of the nation's entry points to guard against the viral disease that has so far killed 8,483 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. A few cases have also been reported in Nigeria and Mali.

In explaining that China is valued as one of the top five source markets for Kenya's tourism sector, Ichan says, "We understand the sensitivity of the health crisis and hence the need to reach out to the market through its media."

About 50 media outlets were invited to the events in China.

In addition to highlighting the nation's security measures, the tourism sector's diversity and unique offerings were emphasized to ensure that tourists have a variety of sightseeing options, especially after most missed out on the popular wildebeest migration, from July to September.

She says the nation's hospitality sector has always been susceptible to terrorist attacks, recessions and national elections.

"The last time we experienced a reduction in numbers was in 2013, as the country prepared for its general elections in March," says Ichan.

She says the nation's tourism sector may see signs of recovery in six months if Chinese tourists continue to visit the country, though she was quick to note that despite budgetary constraints, marketing efforts will be spearheaded through partnerships with Chinese tour operators and online.

"We have allocated 2 million Kenya shillings ($21,800) to market Kenya using selected websites."

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