By Lola Okulo
Kenyan Tourism officials are seeking the help of Chinese tourists and tour operators visiting Kenya to help fight poaching which has reduced the country's wildlife population, a great allure.
While receiving a delegation of Chinese media, tourists and a tour operator, deputy tourism secretary Peter Gakuru said growth of Chinese tourism in the country could help reduce poaching. The Chinese tourism market's main attraction in Kenya is wildlife unlike the European tourists who mostly prefer the beach holidays.
"It is a challenge for us as a tourism ministry to grow the number of tourists because of recent increase in poaching of elephants and rhinos for their ivory and we know the biggest market for ivory is the Asian countries," said Gakuru.
"Once Chinese tourists come here and see how great these animals are, they will be able to go back to their country and tell their people that they are doing a disservice by fuelling the killing of such animals through ivory trade."
China has been identified by Kenya Tourism Board as a major emerging market as the country's marketing body tries to eliminate over-reliance on European visitors.
Chinese tour operator Aaron Sze who runs a company called Glamorous Kenya said he aims to bring more tourists from his country into Kenya by marketing the destination as having 50 wild animal habitat areas.
Sze noted that with aggressive marketing Kenya could be the top destination for Chinese tourists in five years time. "China has a population of 1.3 billion people, if even one per cent of these come to Kenya it will be a major boost to the country's tourism industry," said Sze through a translator.
However, there were concerns raised over direct flights to major cities in China which was seen as a key challenge to growth of that market.
Currently KQ operates direct flights only Guangzhou via HongKong. The airline last week said it will soon operate flights to Beijing once it gets all state approvals and delivery of long haul aircrafts it has ordered. KQ chief executive Titus Naikuni said the aircrafts will start arriving in November.