As Kenya steps up its campaign to ride on the current wave of publicity as the heritage of the new US President Barack Obama, prominent American personalities have endorsed the country as the next major destination for American tourists.
Former Congressman of the State of Georgia, Andrew Young and Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta (which provides investors and missionaries through outreach programmes) have both pledged to visit Kenya this year to support tourism, the Kenyan tourism ministry, said Friday. The two met separately with Tourism Minister Najib Balala in Washington DC where he is leading the tourism marketing campaign in US.
Young, who has also served as the Mayor of Atlanta and US Ambassador to the United Nations, said he will be on the Delta Airline flight that will make the inaugural direct trip to Kenya from US in June this year. “The American market has a huge potential for Kenya that should be exploited, especially following the Obama euphoria,” said the former Congressman, adding “direct flights by Delta Airline now provide an awesome opening for Kenya to the American tourism market”. Young said his interests in Kenya are in tourism and business and has visited the country in the past, the first time in 1974 and later while attending the funeral of former President of Kenya, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Bishop Long told the minister that he is interested in supporting Kenya not only as a tourism destination but also as a prime investment destination. Previously, he has been to Kenya with American investors who were mainly interested in tea, coffee and flower industries including a hospital project in Nakuru. “Kenya is a major destination for Americans especially now that US citizens are interested in the ancestral roots of their president. The country also being recognised as the cradle of mankind would interest them,” said the bishop. He also promised to encourage and facilitate investors and missionaries who are members of his congregation estimated at over 30,000, to travel to Kenya.
Meanwhile, in New York, Minister Balala held consultative meetings with key tour operators on how to cooperate in order to optimally reach the US market. He asked the operators to support efforts to promote Kenya tourism in North America as they know the market well.
The tour operators urged the minister to help fast track introduction of the Common Tourist Visa for the East African Community Partner States to boost tourism in the region. They said that a common visa would eliminate the current unnecessary bottlenecks and costs which were normally passed on to the consumers.
In the meeting, the minister and the tour operators were also joined by Justice Joyce Aluoch, who was appointed to the International Criminal Court of Justice in The Hague.
The Kenyan Ambassador to the UN, Mr. Zachary Muburi Muita was also present.