Kenya lies a long the East coast of Africa covering an area of 586,350 sq.km. with an estimated population of 26 million. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. Kenya is in the process of establishing a firm industrial base with import substitution and processing industries having been firmly established. The country aims at joining the newly industrialized nations status by the year 2020. Tourism is currently the second largest contributor to the economy after agriculture.
Tourism in Kenya dates back to pre-independence days and history has it recorded that as early as the 1930's, overseas visitors and explorers had started coming to Kenya mainly for big-game hunting expeditions while others came in search of solitude. These expeditions were locally referred to by the Swahili word "Safari" thus bequeathing to the travel world literature with a new vocabulary. Among the early visitors were Statesmen, Royalties and celebrities such as Theodore Rosevelt, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and Ernest Hemingway respectively.
At that time, there was already a relatively well developed but limited tourism infrastructure. The available accommodation was spartan but ideal for both the visitors as well as the settler community in Kenya. However soon after independence, the Kenya Government realized the enormous potential of the nascent tourism industry and hence undertook to upgrade the existing infrastructure and superstructure as well as investing in additional facilities. To achieve its goal, the Government encouraged local and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the tourism and hospitality industries thus paving the way for the future development of the sector.
In spite of increased competition from other destinations, Kenya is still one of the foremost tourist destinations in Africa. Tourism in Kenya is mainly based on natural attractions which include wildlife in its natural habitats as well as idyllic beaches. Approximately 10% of the country has been set aside for conservation of wildlife and biodiversity. Game viewing is a very popular pursuit since most visitors to Kenya are predominantly interested in seeing "the big five" namely the Elephant, Rhino, Lion, Buffalo, and the Leopard, not to mention other lesser and unique game the Africa's savanna and forests. A Safari is such a popular product that has enabled the country to continue recording remarkable growth in the volume of visitors. Kenya registered well over 1,000,000 visitors arrivals in 2003 while the bed capacity rose to over 73,000 beds in classified hotels. The sector is a major employer as it currently employs approximately over 219,000. This figure represents about 11% of the total workforce in the country.
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