Why Kenya Remains the World’s Leading Safari Destination

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Jacinta Nzioka – Mbithi, CEO, Kenya Tourism Board


By Ehis Ayere

Kenya was voted the World’s Leading Safari Destination by the World Travel Awards in 2015. This is particularly true as Kenya is the first country to provide the opportunity of sighting the “big five”- elephant, lion, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard in one facility.

Though the country had been recording a slump in arrivals in the last four years, largely due to insecurity occasioned by al-Shabaab militants in neighbouring Somalia, the industry is however recovering from the, as the government invests in security, putting security measures in place  for the safety of tourists.

Jacinta Nzioka – Mbithi, the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Tourism Board, in an exclusive interview with Ehis Ayere of the African Leadership Magazine, outlined the country’s strategic security measures ensuring the safety of tourists, as well as the country’s continuous efforts in conserving wildlife that sustains Kenya as the World’s leading safari destination. Excerpt:

Kenya is referred to as East Africa’s most popular tourist destination. Findings reveal that of the estimated 43,000 ultra-high net worth community that visited Africa, at least, 3,000 preferred Kenya, making the country the third most popular African destination for the super-rich tourists in 2015. Kindly throw more light on Tourism in Kenya?

Kenya has been voted as world’s leading safari destination.  Country’s fame for wildlife safari  has been contributed by  a good number  of National Parks, National Reserves, Game Reserves and sanctuaries all distributed across the country. Kenya could be the only world with a National Park in its Capital; Nairobi National Park.  One can have the opportunity of sighting the ‘big five ‘in one facility; the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.  For sustainability, Kenya is in the global map as a country keen on conservation of her wildlife through many conservation efforts. Kenya is still fresh in the conservation news having three months ago disposed the largest stock piles of rhino horns and ivory. This is a strong message on conservation.

International arrivals of tourists to Kenya hit an all-time high of 1.8million in 2011. As the industry recovers from its slump, what role is the Kenya Tourism Board playing to match the historic record of 2011?

Our initial action together with the industry was to reassure the markets through whyilove Kenya campaigns; we rallied those who have visited Kenya and found it save to share these online messages. This was a success. We have created enough awareness on destination among our target audience and we are now focusing much on conversion to actual visits; this is through partnership with the travel trade for affordable packages, incentives such as reduced park fee entry fees, visa waiver for children below 16 years, and the charter incentives programs aimed at increasing the number of charters to the country. We have also intensified our promotional campaigns both below and above the line. And we have continued to train the travel trade on Kenya’s tourism products as well as entry to new markets such as Africa and Asia.


Occasioned by terrorism in the East African region, research shows visitor numbers and earnings had plunged in the last four years as Western government had warned against travel to Kenya. However, a recent report from your agency reveals that Kenya expects tourist arrivals to jump by a third this year to 1.6 million as Western governments lift warnings against travel to the nation. How did Kenya ensure the warnings were lifted?


Our continued reassurance campaigns on Kenya’s safety and readiness for business has paid off.  The government’s heavy investment on security is indicative of the seriousness the country has placed in putting security on track. Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has had a series of security visits with the foreign envoys to the coastal region especially Lamu to assess security measures the government has put in place for the safety of tourists and citizens alike.  All these campaigns have yielded in having some of the key tourists’ sources markets lifting travel advisories to Kenya.


What are some of the security measures in place to ensure the safety of tourists in the country?

Increased patrols in tourism sites and along Kenya and Somali borders. There are increased investments and budgetary allocation towards the security docket, installation of CCT cameras in strategic locations, sensitization on security alertness, and participation in the AMISON force to dismantle the Al-shabaab terror group.


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to bring in 3 million visitors a year when he was elected in early 2013. At this point in time, putting everything into consideration, do you think this is achievable?


The projection may have been on the basis of having other factors such as security constant; however this may not be achievable owing to largely insecurity that resulted in the dip in tourist arrivals.

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