Last updated: 11:00 AM ET, Wed December 16 2015

Kenya Caps Off Great Month with 'Leading Safari Destination' Award

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | December 16, 2015

Kenya Caps Off Great Month with 'Leading Safari Destination' Award

Photo by David Cogswell

The last few months of 2015 have been good for Kenya’s tourism industry. The U.S. and U.K. lifted travel warnings last month for most of Mombasa and other coastal destinations that rely heavily on tourism. Later in November, the pope visited the country as he traveled through East and Central Africa. 

Then, just a few days ago, Kenya beat out regional rivals to earn the title of “Leading Safari Destination” at the World Travel Awards. The announcement came just as Nairobi was preparing to host the 10th annual World Trade Organization ministerial conference (from Dec. 15-18). Interior Secretary Joseph Nkaisserry said that a successful WTO meeting, coupled with the other positive headlines, would bring confidence in Kenya’s security situation to a new high: “These successful events continue to bolster domestic and international confidence in Kenya and we can attest to the positive impact of this.” 

Finally, some positive media coverage

The pope’s visit did bring Kenya’s corruption and poverty problems into the headlines, but that was overshadowed by news about the level of security in the East African country. The papal visit was a little over a week after the Paris attacks, and it coincided with events at the Radisson Blu in Mali. 

Kenya has been enjoying mainly positive media coverage for the past month or so. That will do wonders for tourism. The World Travel Awards' safari nod will serve as a reminder that Kenya is a traditional destination for wildlife viewing. Kenya has been at the top of the Travel Awards list in the past, last earning Leading Safari Destination in 2013. A Kenyan outfitter, Twiga Tours, beat out safari firms in Botswana and South Africa to earn the most votes for “Leading Luxury Safari Company.” 

Back on the map

Perhaps the more meaningful award for Kenya was not a global one, but a regional one. Mombasa was named Africa’s Best Cruise Port. Many of the warnings that kept tourists away from Kenya were centered on the port city and the surrounding coastal beach destinations. Aside from the safari destinations, this area has always been vitally important for tourism. Getting it fully back online is as big a sign as any that the tourism slump is behind Kenya. Unfortunately, warnings are still in place for certain districts of Mombasa and coastal areas near the border with Somalia. 

When asked about the awards, the Kenya Tourism Board's managing director, Muriithi Ndegwa, did not mention any past struggles, instead focusing the country’s safari destinations: “Our country scooped the global award due to the diverse flora and fauna found in our national parks and game reserves. All parks and game reserves across the country have their own uniqueness in terms of the wildlife, giving international visitors different experiences.” Ndegwa also said that the award would be used as a promotional tool to help bring more tourists back to Kenya. 

A comprehensive strategy

Kenya has indeed been pushing tourism promotion recently. They have hosted events as far away as China to try and lure travelers. There has also been a kind of Open Skies agreement and multiple country visa plan with neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. And Kenya has been heavily promoting itself as a travel destination in other African countries, such as Nigeria. 

The Leading Safari Destination award, along with the other things that have happened over the pat month in Kenya, are a signal that the country has passed its tourism slump and ready to get back to business.   

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