Kenya welcomes 1st group of Chinese tourists after pandemic

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Kenya on Saturday received the first group of Chinese tourists after three years of pandemic-related hiatus at a ceremony in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi marked with pomp and pageantry.

Chinese tourists pose for a photo at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 11, 2023. A flight carrying 40 Chinese group tourists arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on Saturday. This is the first outbound tour group from China to Kenya since China resumed outbound group travel to 20 countries. (Xinhua/Han Xu)

Kenya's senior officials and executives in the hospitality sector were on hand to receive the first batch of 40 Chinese tourists who traveled from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou to Nairobi using a China Southern Airlines flight.

John Ololtuaa, principal secretary at the State Department of Tourism, lauded the Chinese government for choosing Kenya among three African Nations, including Egypt and South Africa, for piloting outbound group tours after Beijing's optimization of COVID-19 response.

"Today is exciting for us because it means we are now resuming full connectivity with one of our growing source markets for international tourist arrivals," said Ololtuaa.

According to Ololtuaa, Kenya will leverage the Chinese market to boost tourist arrivals, hastening the recovery of a sector that contributes about 7 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Product.

At present, China is Kenya's sixth biggest tourism source market internationally, contributing 5.5 percent of total international tourist arrivals in the country during the pre-pandemic period, said Ololtuaa.

John Chirchir, acting chief executive officer of the Kenya Tourism Board, said marketing the country's scenic attractions like wildlife, sandy beaches and mountainous landscapes in China had intensified.

Chirchir said the government is harnessing social media platforms and exhibitions to market Kenya as an ideal destination for Chinese tourists, adding that January's launch of the Club of Sino-Africa Culture and Tourism in Nairobi will boost arrivals from the Asian Nation.

Betty Olwenyi, director of sales at the Mada Hotels East Africa Limited, said the arrival of Chinese tourists will revitalize the entire hospitality sector in Kenya.

"As a hotelier, I am so excited to see the Chinese tourists back in the country. China is our main market, and it is really exciting for Kenya. I look forward to more Chinese visitors in the July-to-October season when there is wildebeest migration in Masai Mara (National Reserve)," said Olwenyi.

Sherry Xie, managing director of Nairobi-based Long Ren Tours & Travel, said the arrival of the first batch of Chinese tourists in Kenya was a confirmation that the country's travel and hospitality sectors were in a revival mode.

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