Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism is looking to ramp up the promotion of sports tourism opportunities to international tourists in a bit to attract a range of new travellers to the country.

According to the official news agency Xinhua, Kenya is looking to create more exposure around the country’s sports tourism opportunities in an effort to boost foreign visitor numbers.

Peninah Malonza, cabinet secretary for Kenya ‘sMinistry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, told local and foreign journalists based in Nairobi that sports tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in tourism thanks to the increased number of sporting events being held in the eastern African country.

“The government has focused on the growth of traditional sports such as athletics, golf, rugby, swimming, and safari while diversifying to more innovative sports tourism activities such as ice hockey to attract more international visitors,” Malonza was quoted by Xinhua news agency during the opening of an international ice hockey tournament.

According to government statistics, tourism is one of Kenya’s largest sources of foreign exchange, alongside tea, diaspora remittances, and horticulture. Prior to the Covid crisis, in 2019 the country welcomed over two million international travellers generating around $1.76 billion (€1.62bn) for the tourism sector alone. However, the total contribution to the country is around $6 billion a year while employing almost 10% of the population.

Peninah Malonza believes that sport has the potential to transform the country’s tourism sector because foreign visitors travel to attend popular sporting events and compete in the events themselves. “We want to organise more major international sports events that will bring the world to Kenya each year,” she added. Popular sports events in the country already organised include the Kenya Open golf tournament and Maralal International Camel Derby.

Iten: Kenya’s leading sport destination

Since 2010, Kenya has been developing its infrastructure for sports tourists. The town of Iten, in the Great Rift Valley, 450 km away from Nairobi, is known as the centre of training for Kenyan athletics and is increasingly turning into an attractive destination to foreign visitors – particularly runners. Many training centres settled in the town over the years. Such as the High Altitude Training Centre which welcomes both professional champions and amateurs. Or the RUN’IX Athletic Centre which is open to all, including children.

British citizens Gavin and Lauren Smith are also running training camps for sports tourists. Their company Kenya Experience, organises packages in their training camps for runners of all levels whilst also providing employment opportunities for highly skilled local experts in the form of tour guides, coaches and guide runners.

“Aggressive tourism marketing is mandatory to draw more local and international tourists to watch the sport,” Malonza was quoted by Xinhua.

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