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Kenyan minister takes to the sky to promote tourism

19 January 2016 - 02:25 By ©The Daily Telegraph

Kenya's tourism minister went skydiving at the weekend to promote the resurgent tourism industry, which has been blighted by years of terrorist attacks and negative travel advisories. Najib Balala took to the skies above Watamu, an upmarket beach resort on Kenya's coast north of Mombasa.Balala said the "fantastic" tandem jump was proof Kenya had "so much to offer".Until recently, Kenya's white sand beaches attracted the likes of Mick Jagger, Naomi Campbell and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi - as well as British and other European families looking for an African adventure.Its national parks full of rare and endangered rhinos, elephants and lions have been a draw-card that attracted at least a million tourists a year - among them Prince William, who proposed to the Duchess of Cambridge in one of the country's most exclusive bush reserves.But a string of terror attacks by Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist Islamist militants saw foreign governments issue travel advisories warning their citizens against all but essential travel to such idyllic locations.The UK is Kenya's largest source of tourists but security concerns, especially after the 2013 Westgate mall attack that saw 67 people killed in Nairobi - among them six Britons - have seen tour operators direct their customers to safer and often cheaper alternatives such as South Africa.Mass cancellations of charter flights from the UK and elsewhere have left Kenya's £700-million tourism industry bereft of business and made a big dent in the economy. Arrivals dropped by almost 20% last year, depriving Kenya of foreign exchange and threatening the half-million jobs in the hospitality industry.Now Kenya is fighting to bring the Western tourists back. Balala said the government has beefed up security and is investing in infrastructure...

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