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Kenya must boost its global image to get more tourists: analyst

03 October 2014, 19:16

Nairobi - Kenya's tourism sector has received a boost after Britain this week relaxed travel advisory it had issued to its citizens.

The number of British citizens visiting the country is, thus, set to rise in the coming months, with other countries including U.S., Australia and France, which have also issued travel advisories, expected to follow suit.

Britain is Kenya's top source market for tourists, but terrorism perpetuated by the Al-Shabaab has kept British citizens away from the East African nation.

Tourism experts have lauded the move by Britain, but said Kenya needs to do more on its own to revive the industry.

"Relaxing the advisories particularly to parts of Nairobi is a step in the right direction, but as we know the capital is not the bedrock of Kenya's tourism. Mombasa is," said Sandra Rwese, the director of Gulu and Hirst, a social media tourism marketing company.

Rwese recommended that Kenya must develop positive messages to reposition its international image away from insecurity challenges.

"Kenya must work hard to refocus consumers away from the internal political wrangling and highly publicized insecurity issues by positively engaging potential tourists, both new and old, " said Rwese.

The tourism analyst observed that social media can best help change Kenya's global image.

"This can be achieved by Kenya sending socially engaging messages about the country, for example using insightful comedy, blogs and sending social updates covering more memorable aspects of its people and country," explained Rwese.

Read also: KTB says ease of Britain travel ban to boost tourism recovery

The East African nation, according to the expert, can also run competitions that create positive images in people.

"Take for instance running photography contest to delight the public. I personally witnessed this in China and it was very effective in reaching out to the netizens, and thus boosting tourist numbers."

The main goal of all these campaigns should be to create memorable social experiences about East Africa's biggest economy.

"Using creative media content, uploading unique graphic and video imagery about the country helps to tell a positive story about the people of Kenya and East Africa as a whole."

According to Rwese, Kenya's global image is not as bad as that of other countries that have experienced decades of war or ravaged by natural calamities.

"A country like Iceland managed to reverse the devastating impact of 2010's volcanic eruptions and ash cloud chaos that brought travel across Europe to a halt. Under the stewardship of President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, Iceland launched a public awareness campaign in 2011 which saw 20 percent increase in tourism the following year," noted Rwese.

"Social media rescued Iceland's embattled tourism economy. I am super confident of a similar turn-around for Kenya and her neighboring nations. Kenya's tourism turn-around is within reach as long as the country employs winning strategies," she added.

Rwese terms social media as a novel method of tourism promotion and marketing, since social selling is the only way to capture the new generation of digitally conscious consumers.

Kenya stands a great chance of marketing itself to the world next month by participating in the World Tourism Market expo to be hosted in London.

In the first half of this year, Kenya received 428,233 tourists, down from 495,660 in a similar period last year, according to the Kenya Tourism Board.

- Xinhua

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