Last updated: 12:07 PM ET, Wed July 29 2015

Obama's Africa Trip: Will It Boost Tourism?

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | July 29, 2015

Obama's Africa Trip: Will It Boost Tourism?

PHOTO: Giraffes on the High Plains of Kenya. (photo by David Cogswell)

For tour operators involved in travel to Africa, President Obama’s current visit to Kenya, the country of his father’s birth, arouses the hope that it will help encourage travel to Africa.

But if tour operators were hoping that the media reports of the President’s trip would spark an immediate boom in travel to Africa, they may be disappointed. Still, any such presidential trip could help to improve the image of Africa in the minds of Americans. And over the long term it could be part of the incremental building of tourism to the continent.

“We haven’t as yet seen a surge in interest,” said Moira Smith, general manager of Africa, Europe and the Middle East for Goway Travel, “but I do believe that it will have a positive impact, particularly in regards to clients who have been on the fence.”

More heartening to Smith was Obama’s assurance to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta that the U.S. government is finalizing plans to introduce direct flights to the United States.

“Certainly should direct flights from the U.S. and Kenya come into play, that would have a significant positive impact on tourism between the two countries,” said Smith. “It was also gratifying to hear him say that travel advisories and warnings can be exaggerated.”

Most tour operators do not expect any immediate boost in business from the President’s trip, but do hope it will help over time.

“At this point I’d have to say it is too soon to know (if Obama’s trip will boost tourism).” said Kathleen Doheny, vice president of marketing for Kensington Tours. “We have not seen a noticeable spike in requests just yet, but in the short term it would be great to see an increase in close rate for the trips already in our pipeline as confidence builds.”

“We can’t tell yet,” said Bob Drumm, president of Alexander + Roberts.

“Sadly, there has been no increase in interest,” said Anne Bellamy, president of Great Safaris. “Not too surprising since all we heard on the news this weekend is that Obama is visiting Kenya, ‘a hotbed of terrorism.’  Thanks, CNN!”

“Obama’s visit is clearly good news for East Africa’s image,” said James Denny, travel consultant for Expert Africa. “To those who are dubious, perhaps it might suggest that Kenya is a safe destination to travel to after all! But no, we have not received any enquiries off the back of it, and nor would we expect to. Incidents like these help create a positive impression which in time may promote business in the future — but they rarely create enquiries directly.”

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