Kenya’s Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, has explained the reason behind the appointment of British supermodel, Naomi Campbell as the Magical Kenya International Tourism Ambassador.
After Campbell was announced as a tourism ambassador of the East African country, some Kenyans on social media asked why the government did not appoint a prominent Kenyan national. Some of the names that have been mentioned include Ajuma Nasenyana and Debra Sanaipei and Lupita Nyong’o.
However others also defended Campbell’s appointment saying with her number of followers on social media and circle of friends, Campbell can influence several people to visit Kenya.
In a response, Balala said in a Twitter post, that appointing Campbell as a tourism ambassador for Kenya takes nothing away from the domestic market but rather strengthens it.
According to Kenya’s East African newspaper, the tourism industry contributes about 8.8% to the country’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected Kenya’s tourism sector. The number of visitors has gone down by 72% between January and October last year.
Kenya’s Tourism Research Institute reported that “the sector hence lost over 110bn Kenyan shillings [$1bn, £738m] of direct international tourists’ revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
To boost tourism and increase revenue, Balala on behalf of the government reached a deal with Campbell over the weekend after meeting the model who is on holiday in Kenya.
“We welcome the exciting news that Naomi Campbell will advocate for tourism and travel internationally for the Magical Kenya brand,” Balala said.
50-year-old Campbell has since been posting images of her stay on Instagram, where she has 10 million followers.
This is not the first time Kenya’s Tourism Ministry has received backlash following an appointment of an ambassador.
In 2017, the Tourism Ministry was criticised by the public for appointing Ugandan dancehall artiste Edrisa Musuuza, popularly known as Eddy Kenzo, as Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) ambassador.
The Chief Executive of the KTB, Dr Betty Adero Radier at the time explained that Kenzo’s appointment was because Uganda contributed a high number of tourists to Kenya from the East African region.