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Kenya, Uganda top in hospitality industry targets

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Kenya and Uganda are among the top 10 preferred African countries for hotel developments, with hotels planning to add new rooms this year.
The two countries have been ranked seventh and 10th respectively in a recent survey by W Hospitality, a global company providing advisory services for the hotel, tourism and leisure industries.
Eight global hotel chains, among them Radisson, Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott and Kempinski, plan to add 1,510 rooms in Kenya while in Uganda nine international hotels, among them Hilton and Sheraton, plan to build 1,397 rooms.
In Nigeria, which is ranked at the top, 51 hotels target 8,563 rooms. Egypt and Morocco are ranked second and third with plans for 6,440 and 5,474 rooms respectively.
Agatha Juma the chief executive of the Kenya Tourism Federation, said the ranking shows “that despite the challenges facing Kenya, the country and the region remain on the radar of investors and tourists. Such investments imply there is a foreseen growth in tourist numbers to occupy these rooms.”
Experts in the travel industry said that East African countries should step up their marketing strategies to compete favourably with North and West Africa for investments and tourists.
Slow infrastructural development such as airports, visa restrictions and insecurity remain major challenges for visitors in East Africa, hindering investments.
North Africa is coming up strongly and South Africa remains attractive to tourists because of its ability to promote specific segments on modern platforms, experts said, despite insecurity challenges in the past.
“The EAC countries should utilise social media to showcase their beaches and wildlife. Tunisia and Morocco have done this, while Egypt is rebounding because tourists choose what is easily available to them,” said Darren Huston, chief executive officer of the Priceline Group, a global provider of online travel and related services.
Priceline opened its Kenyan office in October 2014 with an eye on domestic, regional and international travel. The Priceline Group operates in over 200 countries in Europe, North America, South America, the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa. The company is targeting a share of domestic tourism with packages that cater for high- to low-end users.
“A good marketer should have a package for everyone to win local and regional tourists. We have been studying the market and it is promising,” said Mr Huston.
Despite draft measures by the Kenyan government last year to promote domestic tourism, Kenyans are yet to embrace the measures.
To attract a larger domestic market, the President Uhuru Kenyatta had directed that corporate and business entities would from June 12 be allowed to pay holiday expenses for their staff on annual leave in Kenya and deduct such expenditure from their taxes. This initiative was expected to see at least 25,000 Kenyans take a week’s holiday every month.
“However, the initiative has not worked. Corporates are not willing to spend money, but more individuals and families are visiting for leisure,” said Ms Juma.
In 2014, visitors to Rwanda grew by nine per cent from 1.14 million visitors to 1.2 million visitors, with the industry experiencing an increase in revenue from $296.4 million to $303 million.
Uganda Tourist Board officials said the country’s tourist arrivals are expected to surpass the 1.2 million registered in 2013. Rwanda and Uganda are banking on gorilla trekking to attract more tourists in 2015. Tanzania expects to double the number of its tourists to two million by 2017 from 1.095 million in 2013, according to the Tanzania Tourist Board.
Long-term plans
Hotel investors meeting in Ethiopia in May recommended that African governments make long-term strategic plans covering wide geographical areas.
“When they do so, there can be a greater degree of certainty about the local environment for a new (or refurbished) hotel. This reduces the inherent risk of investing in a particular location,” said the investors in a joint release.
The W Hospitality report showed that confidence is in urban investments, with Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Kampala and Kigali ranked among the top 10 cities with the highest number of rooms lined up. Addis Ababa in the third position, has 1,326 rooms lined up while Nairobi, Kampala and Kigali have 1,220, 1,181 and 1,130 rooms planned for 2015.
Uganda has allocated Ush30.8 billion ($9.4 million) to the tourism sector, up from Ush5 billion ($1.5 million). The money is meant for skills development to raise the standards of the hospitality industry. Kenya has allocated the tourism industry Ksh5.2 billion ($53.4 million) for tourism recovery, representing half of the requested amount.
Rwanda tourism revenues are expected to increase from $293 million in 2013 to $550 million in 2015/16 riding on the budget plan to diversify tourism products.

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