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Balala sets out plan to revamp tourism sector

Newly-appointed Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala plans to spend big on erasing negative sentiments hurting the sector as he begins a push for release of Sh5.2 billion earmarked for the industry’s recovery.

This could be a big win for the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), which is mandated to market the country’s tourism.

Balala says countering the bad image is a key priority to bringing back the lost glory, hinting at radical changes in strategy execution and re-adjustment of the recovery roadmap laid out by his predecessor Phyllis Kandie.

In the new plans, underfunded projects could get more cash based on their impact on the sector. Addressing insecurity, infrastructure upgrade including improvement of access roads to tourist sites, product development and market rank top on Balala’s basket of promises, which he outlined during a welcome cocktail hosted by hoteliers in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Even as he remained committed to turning around dwindling fortunes for a sector brought down to its knees largely by a spate of terror attacks, travel advisories and high tax –regime for industry players, the CS acknowledged it would not be a walk in the park.

“I am committed to bring positive changes, but it’s not going to be easy. Dynamics are not the same…we need new strategy for better results,” he said.

The sector is on a three-year losing streak with a 15.8 per cent slump in arrivals from 1.8 million in 2012 to 1.5 million reported between January to December 2013. Arrivals in the first half of this year dropped by 25 per cent to 284,313 largely due to a spate of terror attacks in the northern parts of the country.

Funds approved Sector recovery funds have already been approved by Parliament and were expected to have been released by September this year. Balala said he had already met National Treasury over the stalled funds and would push further for their release before rollout of a new game plan early next year.

“At the moment, I am meeting with all stakeholders to get acclimatised to the sector after a couple of years in the dark as I get views on urgent matters that would need to be fast tracked in the short term,” he said.

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