Tourism braces for notable boost with UK Royal visit

Thursday, November 2nd, 2023 08:22 | By
President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto welcome King Charles III and Queen Camilla at State House on Tuesday. PHOTO/Print
President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto welcome King Charles III and Queen Camilla at State House on Tuesday. PHOTO/Print

Tourism stakeholders believe that Britain’s King Charles III and Queen Camilla visit to the country will be a major boost to the tourism sector. 

Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) says that the visit by Their Majesties will put Kenya firmly on the map for potential tourists and investors in the UK and beyond.

“This visit will undoubtedly increase the number of UK tourists coming to Kenya and will allow us to show the best of Kenya to people in the Commonwealth and around the world,” said KTB acting CEO John Chirchir. 

Source market

Kenya, the largest economy in the East Africa Community, is the first country on the continent to enter into a trade agreement with the UK worth Sh167 billion annually, with a capacity for growth. 

The UK is among the top three tourist source markets to Kenya after the US and Uganda with steady and promising growth in recent years. In the period between January and August this year, Kenya received 101,167 visitors from the UK up from 83,126 arrivals in the same period last year, an increase of 21.7 per cent. 

Given the shared history and strong ties between Kenya and the UK, a visit by the British monarch could particularly resonate with British citizens, possibly leading to an uptick in British tourists to Kenya.

While it’s difficult to quantify the exact impact on tourism from such a visit, it’s likely that Kenya would experience some positive effects, especially if the visit was well-publicised and went smoothly. Actual outcomes would depend on how the visit was portrayed in the media, the activities undertaken during the visit, and the broader geopolitical context,” explains Hotelier and Tourism Industry Expert Bobby Kamani.

Dr Joseph Kithitu chairman Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) says King Charles III visit to Kenya is one of the remarkable things to happen in the tourism industry.

“UK is a big contributor in the space of Kenyan tourism.This sends a positive message to the UK travellers. Kenya as a destination is well covered and broadcasted in the UK market. Its sending a message of a safe destination to visit for business, relaxation and adventure,” he says.

Grow the economy

He says there are young UK citizens who have never visited Kenya and the Kings’ visit is likely to create awareness and confidence for them.

“Several local hotels in the city are full as a result of the King’s visit in the county. This is going to spur the economic growth. Overall, such visits will continue to boost the tourism business in Kenya and increase the foreign exchange earnings ,” he said.

As King Charles makes his first official visit to a Commonwealth country, there is also much spotlight on the previous visits that the royal family’s has made in the country.

Kenya remains a favourite holiday hotspot for members of the royal family.

For instance, his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, was on a similar tour of Kenya when her father died catapulting her to the British throne. Though, Treetops, the famous lodge where Charles’ parents spent the night, has been shut down, memories of this visit still linger in Kenya’s history.

The second visit was Prince William’s, King Charles’ first-born son who proposed to his then-fiancée Kate Middleton while staying at a holiday house within the sprawling Lewa Conservancy.

While memories of his parents are great, the King will also make his own mark by the visits that he will make and have his own Kenyan memoirs. 

During the visit, the King is expected to see the full breadth of the modern UK-Kenya partnership on display, including trade, tech and innovation, the arts, culture, investment, efforts to tackle climate change, and vital conservation work. 

The visit will also focus on young people with the King meeting Kenyan creatives, tech innovators, future leaders and the next generation of climate activists. People are at the heart of the relationship, and it is young people who will create a brighter future. 

“This visit will celebrate the strong bonds between The UK and Kenya and highlight the potential to further strengthen our relationship across tourism, technology, culture and heritage and the conservation of our environment - critical for tourism to thrive,” said KTB chairman Francis Gichaba. 

Historic moment

Hotelier and tourism industry expert Bobby Kamani believes that the Royal Visit will be an historic moment in the UK-Kenya story, celebrating our already strong partnership and showing that we go far, together. 

“King Charles III’s royal visit to Kenya and some general considerations regarding the impact on Kenya’s tourism. The first is media coverage, especially by monarchs, often attract significant international media attention. This could result in increased visibility for Kenya as a tourist destination, showcasing its attractions, culture, and landscapes to a global audience,” he notes.

Bobby adds that such visits also strengthen bilateral relations. “State visits are not only ceremonial, but also are diplomatic in nature. The visit will result in improved relations between Kenya and the UK and could lead to increased collaboration in various sectors, including tourism.

"There will also be a spotlight on specific attractions. For instance, If the King were to visit specific tourist sites or parks during his stay, those places could see a surge in interest and visitors in the aftermath,” he continues.

Another advantage of the visits would be the cultural exchange, which such visits bring about.

“Highlighting Kenya’s rich cultural heritage can pique interest among potential tourists.

On the flip side, any political or social issues highlighted during the visit might shape the perceptions of potential tourists. Additionally, if there are significant security measures or disruptions due to the visit, it might temporarily inconvenience travellers,” Bobby says in ending.

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