Budget cuts for tourism promotion in Kenya raises questions on government’s sincerity


(Posted 19th March 2016)

We did not see that coming‘ commented a regular source from Nairobi when posing the question how the country’s tourism sector felt about news that the Kenyan finance ministry cut the estimated 7.2 billion Kenya Shillings budget for the sector by nearly 3.5 billion, almost halving the funds which will be available to aid the recovery of Kenya’s tourism sector over the next year.
Other regular commentators responses where sharp and acid enough to fail the standards of re-publishing them here, which will give readers and idea just how badly received this decision was.
One government source, attempting to contain the damage and mitigate the situation, pointed to the lack of capacity to absorb the full 7.2 billion within the current financial year, a reason promptly dismissed however by other sources.
Balala will have his work cut out to fight for the sector to be better facilitated by government. If austerity is the order of the day, I would point to potential savings which you outlined several times in the past. We should form a strong Tourism Authority where marketing is the core function, and do away with all these other parastatals. Those have been job creation machines, nothing else, and if government is serious about saving money, they should start there by consolidating. Taking so much money away from tourism for marketing activities abroad is the wrong way to go‘ added yet another regular commentator, as usual on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions from the powers that be.
Destination Kenya, since Najib Balala returned to the tourism portfolio to replace his luckless predecessor Phyllis Kandie, enjoyed a good run of excellent publicity and high profile tourism trade show appearances but growing visitor numbers simply cannot be taken for granted at this stage without a sustained, medium to long term market engagement.
Existing core markets need to be brought back to full ‘production‘ while new and emerging markets need all the attention they can get, in order to re-position Kenya as a safari and beach destination of choice in Eastern Africa. Accomplishing this with a sharply reduced budget will make many initiatives impossible due to lack of funds, and the new Chairman of KTB, Mr. Jimmy Kariuki of Sarova Hotels, and the Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, will have to form a strong coalition to prevail upon the Kenyan finance ministry to revisit their decision.