By: Bryan Obala.

Mombasa, June 7, 2024 – The KATA Convention 2024 emerged as a pivotal platform for fostering regional synergy and collaboration within Africa’s tourism landscape. The two-day event, held at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort in Mombasa, brought together government officials, international associations, industry leaders, and stakeholders, with a resounding call to unlock the continent’s vast tourism potential through collective efforts.

Speaking during the event, Dr. Patrick Bucha, Tourism Secretary, delivered a keynote address on behalf of Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua of the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife. Bucha emphasized the Kenyan government’s commitment to implementing policies such as the “open skies policy’’, aimed at increasing direct flights to and from the country, a strategic move to boost tourism arrivals and revenue.

“Connectivity is the lifeline of the tourism and hospitality sector,” Bucha stated, citing recent initiatives such as the launch of China Southern Airline’s direct flights between Changsha and Nairobi, as well as the inauguration of Air Brussels’ six weekly flights to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Recognizing the need to diversify Kenya’s tourism offerings, the Ministry’s ambitious project to market the country as the “Home of Human Origins.” This initiative focuses on showcasing Kenya’s rich archaeological and paleontological findings, including the development of a museum and science park at the Lake Turkana Basin to highlight the nation’s human heritage.

Bucha further endorsed the diversification of tourism offerings beyond conventional staples, advocating for medical tourism and acknowledging the private sector’s pioneering role in fostering innovation within the travel industry.

The convention witnessed a strong emphasis on regional collaboration, with H.E. Amb. Paul Mukumbya, the Consul General of Uganda based in Mombasa, highlighting the importance of economic and commercial diplomacy with Kenya. Mukumbya expressed gratitude for the partnership with KATA in organizing the successful Uganda-Kenya Coast Festival and reaffirmed Uganda’s commitment to increasing visitor numbers from its largest source market, Kenya.

“We must overcome the existing seasonality between our neighboring markets and address travel advisories,” Mukumbya urged travel agents, while also encouraging investment in cruise ship tourism on Lake Victoria to enhance cross-border tourism.

Echoing the call for regional integration, Pearl Houreau, Chairperson of the Uganda Travel Agents Association, emphasized the necessity for travel agents to engage policymakers in operationalizing a unified visa among African countries. “Such a visa would significantly enhance intra-Africa travel, making it easier for tourists to move across borders and boosting regional tourism,” Houreau stated.

Patrick Kimenyi, Secretary for Rwanda Travel Agencies, stressed the need to promote African destinations, lamenting that Africans often know more about other continents than their own. “We must raise awareness and appreciation for the diverse travel opportunities within Africa,” he underscored.

Hamida Malik, Chairperson of the Travel Agents of Zambia Association, encouraged Kenyans to visit the “hidden gem” that is Zambia, revealing that an MOU has been signed with the Kenyan government to facilitate travel between the two countries. Malik also highlighted efforts to streamline visa issues, making travel between Kenya and Zambia more accessible and appealing.

As the KATA Convention 2024 drew to a close, it served as a testament to the collective aspiration of fostering regional synergy and collaboration within Africa’s tourism landscape. By convening industry leaders, stakeholders, and policymakers from across the continent, the convention paved the way for a more integrated and prosperous future for the region’s travel and tourism sector.

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