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Exempt private sector from tax to grow sector

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By BOBBY KAMANI
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The increase in domestic and international tourist arrivals in Kenya last year can be attributed to a combination of factors — including the augmented role of the Tourism ministry in the sector, one of the top foreign exchange earners, and concerted efforts in the positioning of the country’s tourism products by the Kenya Tourism Board.

Private sector players have also contributed significantly to the marketing of their products in local, regional and international markets besides creating more employment, directly and indirectly, locally.

Domestic bed nights increased by nine percent last year from 2017, displaying the improved confidence by way of the growing domestic holiday sales by the dynamic travel trade fraternity.

Political stability and improved security throughout 2018 made Kenya a more attractive destination for international travellers (holiday makers and conference delegates alike).

Kenya hosted several international meetings last year, instilling confidence in the country’s safety and capability of handling large conference delegations of international repute. They included the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, the International SKAL Congress and the Africa Hotel Investment Forum.

The growth in the aviation sector boosted confidence in the region, with the launch of non-stop direct flights between Nairobi and New York by Kenya Airways and direct flights from Doha to Mombasa by Qatar Airways. The return of Air France’s thrice weekly flights and TUI Fly Charter Airlines’ operations at the coast instilled renewed confidence in the tourism sector.

The visits by foreign dignitaries throughout the year reinvigorated Brand Kenya on a global scale. British Prime Minister Theresa May, US First Lady Melania Trump, former US President Barack Obama, American television personality Ellen DeGeneres and several African presidents were all visitors to ‘Magical Kenya’.

Open border policies such as visa on arrival and the Single African Air Transport Market have encouraged the free movement of people and goods across borders. These have had profound benefits to Kenya.

Marketing has been revitalised with a greater involvement of the private sector in drafting policies and implantation of strategic frameworks within the sector. Digital marketing has also been at the forefront of the ministry’s agenda, which has been of great benefit to the country’s tourism.

President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke of the need for private sector players to invest further in their products by refurbishing and upgrading properties. As the private sector, we couldn’t agree more.

To help the sector grow even further and faster, however, the government should consider tax exemptions for the private sector, for reinvestment in the economy. It should be made mandatory that whatever amount is saved as a result of that must be spent on the refurbishment of products and upgrading of services.

Mr Kamani is managing director, Diani Reef Beach Resort & Spa, Kwale

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