Distinguished Guests,Ladies and GentlemenIt gives me great pleasure to join you today for the launch of this beautiful property — the English Point Marina. This occasion is, indeed, an important one.
I say so because this facility we are unveiling today is a major endorsement of the recovery strategy of our tourism and hospitality industry. As it were, it is a foretaste of transformation to come.
So let me begin by congratulating the management of English Point Marina for an outstanding development; the investors for showing faith in Kenya; and the Ministry of Tourism for its efforts to see this sector up and running again. Let their example inspire others to emulate them.
Let me also take a moment to thank the United States, United Kingdom and French Governments for their recent lifting of travel advisories. They recognise, as well as we do, that security here has vastly improved, and that there is much to be gained by partnering with Kenya and the region.
Ladies and GentlemenFor our part, my Government has concentrated its work to support tourism and hospitality in three key areas: in infrastructure, in security, and in renewing our partnershipswith stakeholders in the industry.
As I have said, the improvements in security are there for all to see. Wedare not allow that momentum to be lost.
Ladies and GentlemenWe have continued to invest heavily in infrastructure, in the knowledge quality infrastructure is critical to social economic transformation we aim to achieve as a country. Recently, we launched the construction of the Port-ReitzMombasa road.
Equally, the Dongo Kundu bypass, when complete, will allow tourists the pleasure of getting from the mainland to the south coast without having to use the ferry. Even as we work on the bypass, I have instructed the Kenya Ferry Service to step up their management of passenger transportation through Likoni Channel.
Again, expansion of Malindi Airport will ease the arrival of our visitors. Further afield, the expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) means that we can handle more visitors, and we expect that numbers will rise. Those numbers will include new arrivals from the United States, for JKIA will soon receive direct flights from the US.
I am pleased to inform you that, under the Ministry of Tourism, we have already set aside Kshs 1.2 billion for charter incentives to stimulate demand for Kenya by new charters to the coastal region while at the same time encouraging those already flying in to increase the frequency of their flights.
Ladies and GentlemenThat investment in infrastructure and reinforcement of security is supported by closer consultation and partnership with players in the industry. As we speak, the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism is currently engaged in a high-level recovery effort in consultation with stakeholders from government and the private sector.
That is the right way to shape the strategies we need to transform the tourism industry. You can be certain that my Government fully supports these initiatives.
Already, there are innovative policies to show for our work. Visa fees for children under 16 will be waived altogether, effective February 1, 2016. We in addition intend to remove VAT currently charged on park entry fees. We have also waived landing fees at Mombasa and Malindi airports for charter planes. The waiver will be extended to June 30 2018, to help the industry regain its full strength.
In return, I must ask all players to respond to these initiatives, and to the ongoing consultations, with the seriousness they deserve. It is time to make the most of our heritage and our gifts.
Ladies and GentlemenFinally, it is now my pleasure to declare the English Point Marina officially opened.
Thank you. God bless you all.My very best wishes for the new year.