Laikipia governor Nderitu Muriithi has unveiled plans to boost tourism numbers and trade in the county following consultations with investors among them Kenya Airways as he hopes to gain from the direct flights to the United States.
The county boss last Friday held an investors briefing that brought together stakeholders in the tourism industry, Kenya Airways, Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), officials from the Ministry of Trade and Cooperatives and horticulture growers and exporters.
Centum Investments CEO James Mworia, who is the Laikipia County Development Authority chairman, said the long term plan is to have a customs and immigration desk set up at the Nanyuki airstrip to ease entry of tourists into the county.
“Part of the discussions we had was with the KAA to surface the airstrip which is one of the busiest in the country so that we can increase the number of flights to and fro Nairobi,” he said.
According to Mr Mworia, KAA has promised to complete renovation of Nanyuki airstrip including the runway to accommodate bigger planes.
“Once the runway is complete we will hold talks with Kenya Airways on how we can get cargo planes to transport horticulture to Nairobi then to US,” he said.
He added that focus in currently on branding and promoting through Destination Laikipia, an application meant to market the county as a preferred tourist destination.
The county is also appealing to investors to put up tourism facilities.
The authority’s acting CEO Githuku Mwangi said two key sectors targeted for growth are horticulture and tourism, with stakeholders being consulted on how best to exploit the opportunity presented by the direct flights to the US. Mr Mwangi said they hoped to leverage on the link provided by Destination Laikipia to create tour packages offered by a cross section of service providers.
“The US provides us with the highest number of guests visiting this county and being a high-end tourism market we want to see how we can double or triple the number of 5,000 visitors we get from the US,” he said.
Kenya Airways launched direct flights to the US last year, billed as a game-changer in the country’s economy.
However, the challenge has been on how businesses can link with their US counterparts to boost the investments.
“For instance, each year cut flowers worth billions of shillings are exported to Europe and then shipped to other destinations including the US,” Mr Mwangi said during his presentation at Soames Hotel in Nanyuki.
He added that “during the inaugural flight we had a delegation to Philadelphia where an annual flower show is held and we would like our investors to participate in this year’s event.”
Extensive consultations with Kenya Airways were underway to see how flowers would be distributed to other destinations after landing at the John F. Kennedy airport.
Laikipia is a major tourist destination but there are several bottlenecks that need to be resolved.
According to Trade and Tourism county executive Biwott Tirop, the county hopes to triple tourism numbers to 15,000 a year.
By Gitonga Marete