24 October 2008

Kenya signs agreement with Expedia.com

Kenya's tourism industry will receive a major boost after signing a deal with online travel website Expedia.com. The world-leading internet travel agency will be working with regional operator Vintage Africa to market Kenya and East Africa as a tourist destination, the East African Community announced in a press release yesterday.

The deal resulted from East Africa's first e-conference in Nairobi last week, at which many businesses seized the opportunity to create new partnerships with Kenya-based hotels, safari camps and guesthouses. 

"It’s really encouraging to see Kenya’s tourism moving to online channels", said Theresa Emerick, director of Nightsbridge, a South African-based online, real time reservations system. 

Kenya tourism is now moving into a new era of e-commerce and e-tourism, and the Kenyan Government and ICT Board is providing full support.

"The board is deeply involved in supporting e-tourism because tourism is one of Kenya's most significant income earners," Paul Kukubo, CEO of the Kenya ICT Board.  "It is going to be of even greater benefit to this country if ICT made bookings easier, made marketing easier and more cost effective, and provided the information needed to sustain the industry."

The move into e-tourism will allow Kenyan tourism operators flexibility in terms of providing rates and offers, and will allow operators to maintain a sustainable approach to selling Kenya to the world, said Diego Lofeudo, Expedia.com's director of market management.

Kenya's decision to embrace e-tourism stemmed from impressive results seen in Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia, which each recently switched to online marketing in tourism. 

Expedia.com had a turnover of US$20 billion last year, and the company has already signed up Hilton and Fairmont hotels on its online platform.

Kenya has a relatively relaxed immigration system for people who wish to visit the country.  Some international visitors to Kenya are not required to apply for a Kenyan visa to visit the country for up to three months.  These include nationals from African, Caribbean and a few European and Asian states. 

Nationals from the European Union and the USA need to apply for a temporary Kenyan visa to visit the country.  Although temporary visas can be bought at the port of entry to Kenya, it is recommended to apply before you travel to the country to avoid the risk of being denied a visa, as some applications can be rejected at customs.

The Worldwide Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in Kenya visa and immigration services.

Article by Jessica Bird, Worldwide Visa Bureau.

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