Tourism is not only a major source of revenue for the economy but it also creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. Official statistics show the tourism industry supports 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs, or nearly 10 per cent of Kenya’s employment.
However, the sector has been under siege in recent years with declining tourist arrival numbers. With the number of travellers from the traditional Western markets reducing for various reasons, including the threat of global terrorism, China has lately emerged as a potential market that needs to be tapped.
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And the Kenyan tourism and travel industry has wasted no time in aggressively wooing visitors from the East.
China is the fifth-biggest global source of tourists for Kenya and the second-biggest market in Asia.
But as more and more Chinese visit Kenya, some of their compatriots are also seeking a piece of cake through greater engagement in the industry. And there is nothing wrong with foreigners investing in our tourism to expand it and create more opportunities. However, their role needs to be streamlined to avoid conflicts.
Already, there is an outcry by tour drivers and guides about an alleged Chinese invasion of their turf.
This would not arise if the rules and regulations governing employment in Kenya were strictly applied.
The key principle is that foreigners should not be given jobs for which the skills are available locally.
The tour drive and guide jobs are not highly skilled and, therefore, there is hardly any justification for hiring foreigners.
The Immigration Department has clear criteria for issuing work permits and it would be interesting to hear the justification for hiring foreigners as tour drivers and guides.
The ongoing crackdown on illegal aliens should cover every sector, including tourism.